Pack lunches your kids will eat — and save a few dollars

Arielle Fallon, age 4, bites into a pear from a Wholesome Tummies lunch (Photo by Paul Kuehnel)

Arielle Fallon, age 4, bites into a pear from a Wholesome Tummies lunch (Photo by Paul Kuehnel)

Convenience comes with a price — even when packing kids’ lunches.

It’s easy to throw in a Lunchable and a snack bag of pretzels, but is it worth the cost?

For the most part, no, with items we checked out at Giant Food Stores, ranging from Goldfish crackers to sliced cheddar cheese.

Pretzels were the cheapest to buy in a 16-ounce bag instead of snack bags, while Oreo cookies were the only items cheaper to buy portioned.

But will kids appreciate items parents hand-packed more than pre-packed snacks?

Snackpg32Cost-effective lunches are worthless if kids won’t eat them, a fact Springettsbury Township mom Debbie Doughty knows all too well.

Doughty’s 11-year-old daughter, Ashley, doesn’t like bread. So Debbie packs her turkey and cheese in a taco shell or tuna fish in a cup. She also packs SpaghettiOs, macaroni and cheese and even deviled eggs in place of a traditional PB&J.

Food isn’t the only make-or-break factor for kids’ lunches. Even containers can affect whether a kid will eat what’s inside or toss it.

“I usually find odd containers at Five Below,” Doughty says, describing boxes with compartments for salad dressings and ice packs. The boxes might look fun, but what’s most important is that they’re functional — keeping foods cool and letting kids dip their veggies.

Five Smart lunch ideas

Kelly Javis (Photo by Paul Kuehnel)

Kelly Javis

Shrewsbury mom Kelly Jarvis, who recently started a Wholesome Tummies franchise in York County, shares more lunch-packing tips:

1.Involve your kids in deciding what to pack. This can start with a family trip to the grocery store. Jarvis, mom to 5-year-old Travor, says she knows that’s challenging for many parents. But if you have time, encouraging kids to pick items and compare nutrition facts can help them better understand what they’re eating and how much it costs.

If you can’t bring them to the store with you, ask them at night what they liked about lunch, or didn’t like.

Refrain from, “Did you eat your lunch today?” Jarvis said. She often starts by telling Travor what she liked about her lunch to get him talking about his.

2. Make your own ‘Lunchables.’ It might not have the label, but it’s healthier to pack your own whole grain crackers, meats and cheeses, Jarvis said. In general, steer clear of most processed foods.

Compiling it in a bento box might even make it look more fun than the brand-name snack.

3. Cook foods ahead of time so it’s not a nightly chore. “The more you can prepare over the weekend, the better your life will be,” said the mom who’s been packing Travor’s lunch for day care the past two-and-a-half years. Soups are a favorite for many kids that are easy to make in advance. Just be sure to have a container that will keep it warm until lunchtime.

4. Focus on aesthetics. Kids are more likely to eat colorful foods, Jarvis said, which tend to be healthier anyway. “I try to do a rainbow of colors in my kid’s lunch.” For fruits and veggies, bring kids to farmers markets to learn what’s in season when.

5. Personalize it. “Adding a note makes it cute,” Jarvis said. A midday smile might be just what your child needs while munching on his PB&J.

Online

Parents who don’t have time to pack kids’ lunches but still want a healthy option can order from Wholesome Tummies online at wholesometummies.com. Each lunch ranges in price from $4.50 to $5 and is made in a local commercial kitchen.

Jess Krout

Multiplatform features copy editor at York Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter @JessKrout. Email jkrout@ydr.com or call 717-771-2002.

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