Dash just started Kindergarten and while we don't yet know if he will be too busy socializing to eat his lunch (likely!), we do know that Rosie has brought home many an uneaten lunch. We have taken some steps to keep this from happening, but it's just frustrating as a parent to find that your lovingly packed lunches get ignored or discarded. I was reading through the insightful comments and saw some parents were recommending that your child pack his own lunch. My first reaction was, forget that! My kids are too young/irresponsible/unmotivated and then I stopped myself.
While they might not yet be able to physically pack their lunches, they can certainly get involved! Since Rosie eats about 50 foods total (not including variations on chocolate), we have already been to a nutritionist. I have detailed lists [OCD-alert] of her foods broken down by their nutrient content. I decided that my best option would be to make flash cards with delicious-looking images of the foods on them (because Dash is not reading—yet)!
I took my lists, my graphic design skillz (practically applied—I'm just making usable items here), and made some decisions on how to structure the cards for the kids' use. Then, I stayed late at work to print them out. Pictured is one of three pages from my layout. While the food pyramid at USDA's website is helpful, the group-breakdowns weren't set up for balancing a lunch for kids. There is a lot of information there, go look if you want.
Here's my structure. I set up five categories for the kids to pick one or two each (with guidance that they needed to have at least one from EACH number group), color-coded them, and added where they fell in the USDA Groups set up:
- main course items, purple; my main course foods have the most protein, come from the USDA's meat/beans/nuts/seeds group and will help to keep my kids' energy levels high.
- fruits and veggies high in vitamins, red for fruit and green for vegetables; many of these foods are raw, just how my kids like them.
- side items, orange; are often from the grains group, but might also be a vegetable with a lower vitamin count.
- snack foods, white; treat items with higher sugar, mostly chocolate-flavored for my kids (#4 will be first to get eliminated if a previous lunch has #1-3 come home uneaten!).
- drinks, blue; my kids drink white or chocolate milk or water, no juices, so easy pickins here.
**DISCLAIMER** These cards are for my personal use; I am not selling them and many of the images I used are FPO and not licensed. Were I to sell them, I would either shoot new images or legitimately purchase the photo licenses from the image owners.