Today, I appeared on Fox 5 San Diego to discuss tips and tools for making easier school (and soon-to-be camp) lunches!
While you could knock yourself out making the world’s most awesome Pokemon bento lunch (done it), the truth is that lunch boxes bounce around inside backpacks and can be subject to heat from sun. Kids also have a limited amount of time to eat. Together, these challenges make food art a (sometimes) unrealistic option.
Plus, aren’t we all short on time? We need easy food. We need gadgets that make it look cuter than it otherwise would to encourage kids to eat it. And, it has to transport well.
My goal is to have you walk away with at least one simple idea that might have an impact. I have listed some of the items mentioned in the segment below via Amazon of which I am an affiliate.
First Things First: Lunch Boxes
I’m a believer in compartmentalized lunch boxes mostly because my daughter prefers that her food stay in its place and a sandwich definitely isn’t going to get eaten if strawberry juice runs into it. Bentology lunch boxes are among the most popular and I like that you have an option to purchase extra containers for those days you just don’t get to the dishes.
We also love our 2-tiered Kotobuki panda and have been using it for years. It splits into two levels and one has a secure lid. You can pack quite a bit into it but it could never hold enough food to feed my husband, for example. It’s great for kids and light lunches.
Pottery Barn Kids sells adorable lunch boxes and individual plastic or metal containers of various sizes to fit inside. I chose the divided box but you are limited to its compartment sizes as they are unable to be adjusted. I personally think that it’s an excellent option but would also purchase the sandwich size box and perhaps the skinny rectangular box for extra flexibility.
Make It Colorful
Now this can apply to both food and accessories, but I’ve read that experts believe kids are more likely to get excited about their lunch if it’s colorful. This certainly is the case with my daughter who learned to “eat a rainbow” in preschool in lieu of the food pyramid.
In fact, one study showed that kids prefer meals with 7 items and 6 colors because they want visually stimulating food presented with a little pizazz.
My favorite way to do this is by contrasting color like plopping a tangerine in the center of a blackberry pile or merely slipping in a kale or lettuce leaf under a sandwich. Will the lettuce leaf always get eaten? Nope. But if it helps the sandwich go down, I’m all for it. I’ll look at her lunch and ask myself, “How can I make this more colorful?”
It’s also easy to brighten up a lunch box with simple inexpensive accessories likes these:
- Colorful, reusable muffin liners
- Picks that serve as skewers, forks or just cute designs
- Food dividers, similar to the green divider seen in to-go sushi
If you have cookie cutters and a pair of kitchen shears, you’re ahead of the game when it comes to shaping food. But if there is one thing I’d suggest you buy, that’s a small set of vegetable cutters. Cookie cutters are often too flimsy to cut through carrots, for example.
You can use these cutters to shape things like:
- bell peppers (if sides are flat enough)
- sandwich meat
I am telling you that taking an extra few minutes to slice a carrot and press a cutter into it can make the different between kids eating it or not (I’ve tested this at play dates). The beauty of cutting into something round like a carrot slice means that the shape remaining after the shape is cut out is still pretty. I toss these into salads at the end of the day.
Wilton makes large comfort grip cookie cutters that are sturdy enough to cut through large sandwiches though designated sandwich cutters maximize the amount of bread used. Keep in mind that Japanese bread is shaped in an almost perfect square versus our usually-rectangular shaped bread here. I save the excess and use it to hide my dog’s medication (bread is the only thing that works).
I find that kids love faces. If I see an opportunity to turn anything into a happy or crazy face, I’ll do it. Pimento-stuffed green olives when sliced make fantastic eyeballs especially when placed on top of a sliced hard boiled egg. I’ve also spent a lot of time making various sandwich faces.
You can secure raisins, nuts and other potential facial features onto bread, bagels or whatever you choose with cream cheese or peanut butter. Wilton also sells pre-made candy eyeballs about the size of a standard sequin that I used every so often in my daughter’s lunch.
Other Handy Helpers
My daughter keeps portable hand sanitizer clipped to her lunch box. She loves the cute ones near the cashier at Justice because they come in stylish holders.
Sandwich and snack holders from Lunchskins can be tossed in the top rack of your dishwasher after use. I like these for quick bites in the car.
If your child’s lunch box is stored outside, as is the case with my daughter, ice packs are totally necessary.
And, how about these adorable Lunchbox Love Notes? This set can last for half of the school year without repeating.
How do you jazz up your child’s lunch?