California rolls, dried pineapple, Girl Scout Thin Mints
A reader left a comment on one of my "What's for Lunch" posts that left me thinking. She had the opinion that I wasn't packing enough lunch to fill my kids up. She was nice enough to say that she meant no offense, and none was taken, but it's an interesting topic of conversation.
Packing the right amount for lunch is like reliving the story of Goldilocks. Pack too much, and you've wasted good food (unlike dinner leftovers, these have been out all day so I can't save them for another day. Pack too little, and the kids come home hungry and cranky. Pack just the right amount, and everyone is happy!
So how do I figure out how much to pack?
Avocado, ham and tomato wrap; blackberries; yogurt raisins; dried pineapples
Since I'm the household chef, I have a pretty good idea of how much food my kids eat. They do have pretty big appetites, but I prefer to pack lunches that are slightly on the lighter side of what I know they're capable of eating, for several reasons:
* Their lunch break is very short; they only get fifteen minutes to eat until the bell rings to signal the beginning of lunch playtime. Any kid who has not finished eating in that time is allowed to stay and eat, but most kids want to maximize their playtime, so my boys will usually stop eating after 15 minutes, whether they've finished their food or not, and run out to play with their friends.
* My kids eat a pretty big breakfast (The Pea has cut down to 1 bowl of cereal but the boys still have 2 bowls) as well as a mid-morning snack at 10:00 AM. Their lunch break starts at 11:45 AM, so I know they're not starving as they head into lunch.
* School ends at 2:20 PM, and they know that as soon as they get home, they can have a snack.
Basically, smaller amounts of food served at frequent intervals ensures that they're never at starvation level throughout the day!
Boiled egg, crumbled blue cheese, veggie straws, Ritz crackers, carrots, peppers
Of course, I don't always get it right. Sometimes they're just not hungry. Sometimes their appetites are gargantuan. Sometimes I pack a heavier snack and feel like I should pack a lighter lunch, and vice versa. But there's a feedback system. When I pack too much, it comes back uneaten. When I pack too little, I hear about it pretty quickly! I ask them from time to time whether they think I ought to pack more or less. Based on all this feedback, I adjust.
Egg salad and greens, veggie straws, yogurt blueberries
On the whole, it works pretty well. How do you figure out how much lunch to pack?
Chicken wrap, strawberries, yogurt, granola