How to save your kid from a sad elementary school desk lunch

by Kinsey Gidick

Real talk: My kid is a terrible eater. In fact, as of this week we’ve begun an intervention. The plan: Introduce a new food each week in hopes to add some variety to his PB&J diet. His plan: Hunger strike. One of us is going to break. Sources say it’ll likely be me.

Now that I’ve revealed my secret shame, that I, a very vocal champion of food am raising an unbendingly bland eater, allow me to share my fantasy, what I’d pack if my child were a curious epicure.

His little lunch box would be packed with local flavors. A trip to the farmers market each weekend has all the items you need to pack your kid a great lunch. For instance, I’d visit Lowland Farms’ stand for cherry tomatoes and basil. Cut those red orbs in half, tear up a little basil in there and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper for a Tupperware-ready side dish.

Then I’d move on to Rio Bertolini’s pasta stand and grab whatever happens to be their ravioli of the day. In the good old days, when my son was a baby, he’d eat fat fists of pasta. I’d put the leftovers in his lunch and top it with a little homemade pesto (so grab extra basil from Lowland) for a filling mid-day meal.

If it was a more casual day, I’d put a pickle or two in the bag from the Charleston Farmers Market’s Pickle Lady. Her Kosher spears are the real deal.

Peaches from Owl’s Nest Farm are a must sliced and diced or served smoothie style in a thermos. Then, if you want to add a mildly sweet treat, pop by Palmetto Kettle Corn. A quarter cup of their sweet and salty mix goes a long way, but still gives your child a snackable, locally sourced bite.

Four ways to craft your kid’s same ol’ school lunch By Lindsay Collins

Most of the time I have difficulty deciding what I want to eat for lunch. Reading menus is a weird hobby of mine and talking about food is my job, yet when I’m asked what I want for lunch I stare blankly into the distance like someone waiting for their number to be called at the DMV. I have a first grader and a kindergartner that are both insanely picky. Whipping up a vegan entrée for someone who is allergic to tree nuts, gluten, and soy is easier than packing them something decent for lunch. But with some creativity and a few basic guidelines I have found a way to make sure they stay alive and don’t solely survive on sugar.

Feed their brain

The classic peanut butter and jelly gets an upgrade with natural almond butter, sliced grapes in lieu of jelly or jam, and a bit of honey drizzled on top. My 5-year-old eats meat and loves tuna salad. It doesn’t win him any fresh breath awards but it’s easy to make and is great brain food. Plus, limiting sugar helps them stabilize their blood sugar levels and definitely plays a role in how they behave during school and the length of their attention span.

Make it fun

We play around a lot with the way the food looks. My oldest son is inexplicably a vegetarian by choice and survives mostly on eggs, so he will take a boiled egg if I cut it in half and make it look like “silly eyes.” I always send carrot sticks or flax seed tortilla chips and a mini pack of hummus for both boys because playing with your food is a kids’ job and dips are a great way to do that.

End on a sweet note

I personally don’t think any boxed lunch is complete without a “dessert.” We love to bake together and pick something to make for their lunch each week. They definitely have more interest in eating something they helped to create. You have to pick and choose your battles but in our house the non-negotiable is sugary drinks. We don’t give the boys soda or lemonade or juice boxes so that kind of leaves some room for the mini chocolate chip cookie or brownie at the end of their meal.

Make it taste good and keep it simple

My kids don’t seem to mind having the same thing over and over so I’ve stopped trying to reinvent the wheel each day for my own sanity and it helps with keeping prep time to a minimum. Above all I think making their food taste good is key. Just because it’s a boiled egg that looks like eyeballs doesn’t mean you can’t put some fancy salt on top. Kids have taste buds too.

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