What's for lunch? And how much is too much?

 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

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Krista Hanna said...

I at times have thought that the lunches I packed for my second grader didn't look like enough food. He is a very skinny boy and does not like to eat meat so most of his lunches consist of a lot of fruits and veggies, nuts, yogurt, and some cheeses. My main struggle comes down to the issue of how much TIME he has to eat- if I pack TOO much food for the time he has to eat then he will end up not getting a rounded meal- like maybe only eating some of the fruit but not the yogurt or nuts (and those are also the more expensive foods in his lunch!). Plus- the fruits and veggies that make up the bulk of his diet take longer to chew and eat because they are healthy, whole foods ;)

Our lunches look a LOT like the ones you have pictured in this blog post. No more than 4 items usually- this cuts down on the chance of him not having time to eat a rounded meal of at least 3 of the items I packed for him. Sometimes I do pack an extra cheese stick in his lunch though- he tends to share with a little girl in his class and if I don't pack TWO, he will give his away! ha!

I have struggled with educating our family on the fact that they don't need to keep pushing him to eat all the carbs and meats that don't appeal to him- they don't seem to believe me that there is plenty of fiber and protein in his mostly vegetarian diet! At family meals they always try to persuade him to get a second plate of food and eat meat, potatoes, noodles or bread.

bonggamom said...

Krista, my mom is like that too! She keeps insisting that my boys look too thin; in reality they are quite sturdy, 85th percentile for height and weight. At least your family pushes noodles and bread, mine pushes ice cream!