Thursday, September 16, 2010

Flash Cards for Kid's Lunches

I was reading an article on Asha Dornfest's Parent Hacks blog asking parents to discuss a topic dear to my heart: How to get your child to eat more of her school lunch?

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. side items, orange; are often from the grains group, but might also be a vegetable with a lower vitamin count.
  4. 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!).
  5. drinks, blue; my kids drink white or chocolate milk or water, no juices, so easy pickins here.
The kids were super-excited about the cards last night and wanted everything, but remember where this post started? They weren't finishing what they were getting. In fact, Rosie hadn't eaten her main course from the prior day (edamame, which is a favorite), so she didn't get a #4 today. Here's what they picked for today's lunches, with a quick addition of pizza for Dash:

**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.


  1. These are beautiful! I'm in awe of your OCD graphic designer skillz. And I would totally buy these if you were selling them...I think they would make the lunch-assembling process easier for my kid. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is such an awesome idea. Thankfully I haven't had any issues with Ros yet (knock wood) but if I do we're doing this!

  3. Monica & Thordora, Big Thanks!!

    The most wonderful result of these cards has been my daughter asking if she can "play the lunch game" with me again! She wants to sort them by color (don't help, mom.) then go through every card and eeny-meeny them until she finds the perfect combination. Warms my heart.

  4. You are a girl after my own heart!! I love this!! Beautiful, Organized, Thoughtful. Perfect!

  5. Brilliant idea. Will share this one with my followers. Really love the investment you're making in the health and nutrition of your kids. They'll thank you for it :)

  6. What a great idea! I am not a mom, but read your idea via EasyLunchBoxes and was so excited to share it with my nieces and nephews. I believe that children need to learn about balanced, healthy eating from a young age and this lets them learn early how to make great decisions! You are an awesome mom!

  7. love love LOVE this! I'd better make some up now, because I will be using them soon, I'm sure! Thanks for the tips. Any more tips on balancing kids' lunches? It's so hard to dig through all the varied (and often conflicting) info out there.

  8. that's a great idea, thanks so much. my only concern is your inclusion of nuts ~ with so many peanut allergies & the possibility of a reaction, our schools & daycares are nut-free. what other proteins, besides meat products, do you include? thanks!!

  9. I spend a lot of time on's MyPlate, where you can enter any food item and get its breakdown in protein, carbs, fats, sugars, sodium, fiber and other nutritional info. I cataloged all 50 (yep, that's all!!) foods that my daughter doesn't outright refuse and that does include a lot of nuts. Other foods that have great/high protein values that she will eat are edamame (soybeans, Japanese style), couscous, rice, lima beans, and protein bread. She won't touch peanut butter or any cheeses/yogurts, so it's a struggle. Thanks for your comments!!

  10. I love this idea and am excited to make something like this for my kids also!

  11. Awesome idea! thanks for sharing . This might really help my kindergarten twins communicate with me better and stop food waste!

    Love the colorcoding idea too!

  12. Excellent - you should definitely market this! The visual reminders are great, I always talk to my kids about needing to eat lots of colors in their foods (the natural colors of course!) and the cards would really help them to understand.

  13. Kids Flashcards MyKidsFlashcards offers educational language teaching flash cards as resources for kids, children, parents and ESL teachers of preschool, kindergarten, primary and secondary education. We offer more than 60+ card sets for language learning of English, Spanish, German, French, Pinyin or Chinese. Our flashcards provide high quality images with easy and clear illustrations. The pictures are easy to understand for all ages. Teachers can use the card sets for kindergarten level up through to high school students.


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