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Healthy lunches for kids require organization

As the school year nears, plan now so kids don't get tired of the same old options.

By Sharon ThompsonLexington Herald-Leader / August 20, 2012

For packed lunches, bento boxes (l.), which originated in Japan, are popular with kids.

Matthew Mead/AP


LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — It’s only lunch. What’s the big deal?

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The first few weeks of a new school year are when parents stress about what to feed their youngsters.

Lunch programs at schools provide nourishment, but picky eaters often prefer a lunch packed (or supervised) by mom or dad.

Choosing healthful items for your child’s lunch means careful planning, extra trips to the supermarket and time allotted for making sandwiches and cutting up fruit. Ideas for lunch box items are plentiful, but after the first couple of weeks of school, children often become bored with their usual choices, and parents tire of the chore. But it’s important for parents to keep the pantry stocked with fresh ideas.

Planning is the key. “Mommy blogs” and Pinterest are loaded with quick ideas for packing no-stress lunches.

Evelyn Cucchiara, author of “30 Days to an Organized Home,” blogger at, and mother of three sons, is an expert at organizing family dynamics. In an email, Cucchiara said the routine that works best for her family is “repeating the same systems over and over. If it works, stick with it. Saves you time, energy and thought power. You know what to plan for, they know what to expect.”

These tips for making school lunches works well for her boys, Cucchiara said. They make a week’s worth of lunches on Sunday.

—Set up an assembly line, making five at a time.

—Wrap in foil sheets, like the ones available at the big box stores.

—Check what’s in the products you are using. No sense making lunches at home if you’re not using healthful ingredients. Especially check the bread — many labeled wheat are not whole wheat, just white bread colored to look like whole wheat.

—Pack snacks in reusable plastic containers to save the expense of buying plastic bags

—Make desserts on Sunday also — then pack individually and freeze.

—Get each child a water bottle labeled with his or her name. The child is in charge of filling it up daily.


—Storing all dry goods in resealable containers takes up less space in the cabinet and kids can help ­themselves.

—Store condiments on a lazy Susan in the fridge.

—Buy often-used items in bulk so you don’t have to make last-minute trips to the store.

—Get rid of any kitchen bowls/pots/pans and other items you don’t use on a weekly basis — or at least store them somewhere you won’t bump into them daily.

After a few weeks into the school year, parents might be tempted to buy prepackaged lunch kits. Most are high in saturated fat and sodium, and low in fiber and other nutrients. You can make a lunch kit easily that’s more nutritious and less ­expensive.

Bento lunch boxes are popular with youngsters, and you can buy a variety of bento-style containers. Bento is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. You can buy disposables or two-tiered themed boxes such as Hello Kitty, Kotobuki Samurai Warrior, frog face or piggy.


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