Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

How to pack mom-approved school lunches in a jiffy

 I started teaching preschool from my home when my second son was born, and his big brother was 3 years old.  I'd taught first grade for 6 years at that point, and thought I knew kids and teaching pretty well!  I'm glad to say I've had some...learning opportunities since then.  😉 One of the many differences was that as a home based preschool teacher, I provided breakfast, lunch and snack to all my students.  I got pretty good at making healthy meals that children would actually eat (gasp)!
How to pack mom-approved school lunches in a jiffy, by Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
When it came time for my own children to start elementary school, I was excited to sign them up for cafeteria lunches, thinking they would get a hot lunch each day, and I would be off the hook for making those meals.  It didn't take long for them to remind me how... delicious...school lunches are.  It was time for me and my children to learn how to make quick, easy, mom-approved lunches that they could pack each morning!

To make a balanced lunch, you have to know what a balanced lunch is - and most of the prepackaged "lunch" foods on the market really aren't balanced.  According to the federal food program that I followed for my preschool, lunches should consist of:

 milk + 1 protein food + 2 fruits/veggies + 1 grain product.  

I knew my children could buy milk in the cafeteria, so I came up with a variety of foods for each of the other food groups, and stocked the refrigerator and pantry.  The best part about all this?  My children quickly learned how to make their own lunches, meaning they chose which foods they had, and generally ate it quite happily.  Your children can do it too!  Here's what worked for us, feel free to modify it to fit your family's tastes. 

Protein foods (pick one)                                    
Hard boiled egg (take the shell off at home)                          
1 oz nuts: almonds, peanuts, pecans, etc.                               
2 Tbspn peanut butter/ almond butter                                    
2 oz cheese cubes                                                                    
1 cheese slice                                                                           
Cheese stick                                                                            
Gogurt (freeze it at home, pack it frozen, and by lunch time it's defrosted and has kept the other food cool!)                                                                                 
4-6 oz yogurt pot                                                                    
Drinkable yogurt                                                                     
Bean dip                                                                                 
hummus dip                                                                                                            
2 oz sliced lunch meat                                                                  

      Fruits and Veggies (pick 2)
6-8 cherry tomatoes
3" peeled sliced cucumber
tangerine
cut mango pieces
snow peas
raw green beans
applesauce (single serve cup)
single serve fruit cups
watermelon or cantaloupe cubes
apple wedges (add a few drops of sprite or lemon juice to prevent browning)
dried fruit like raisins, craisins or mixed fruit
carrot sticks or mini carrots
banana (I liked to write jokes or messages on it for my son to find at lunch time!)  
bell pepper strips
cut pineapple
grapes
100% juice box drink
strawberries
orange segments

        Grain foods  (pick one)                                                                                               
a slice of bread                                                                                       
8 – 10 crackers                                                                        
Small baggie goldfish crackers                                               
pretzels     
whole grain granola bar                                                                            
flatbread or tortilla with butter                                               
pita bread                                                                                
graham crackers                                                                      
large or small rice cakes                                                          
small baggie breakfast cereal
bagel chips
cold cooked noodles w dressing

Fun combinations
fat pretzel sticks and peanut butter to dip in                                
fruit wedges + yogurt to dip them in
crackers spread with peanut butter                                       
fresh berries in vanilla yogurt
graham crackers spread with peanut butter                          
fruit & cereal to add to yogurt pot = parfait
bean dip + raw veggies to dip                                              
cheese slices + crackers
hummus and pita bread to dip                                              
applesauce + graham cracker dippers
peanut butter + veggies to dip                                                           
mini sub sandwich on hotdog bun
round crackers and sliced hard boiled egg                            
trail mix: small crackers, pretzels, nuts, raisins
rice cake spread with peanut butter/ cream cheese               
small veggie pieces + cheese cubes
round crackers and cucumber slices                                     
cold noodles + dressing + tomatoes + cucumber pieces.

Obviously I couldn't and didn't stock all of these foods all of the time.  There were some pantry items that could sit for a while and still be good, but fruits and vegetables especially had to fresh.  Each week the boys had to decide on a couple of things each that they wanted and would eat 2-3 times during the week.  I usually kept single serve fruit or applesauce containers on hand for those days that they just couldn't make up their minds.

It's also important to have a way for the children to portion their food, so we always had a supply of zippered baggies and small containers for them to put their food in.  My oldest was happiest with a "real" lunch box and small containers of food, and would bring them home so we could wash them.  My youngest son had a true talent for losing lunch boxes (gifted and talented on this one), so he carried paper sack lunch bags.

Either way, they were able to quickly pack and take balanced lunches, and we could focus our morning energy on other things... like finding the piece of paper that needed a signature yesterday, or where the other shoe had gone.

I hope you find this list helpful, thanks for stopping by!
Paula

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