QUIZ ANSWER: The first kids' lunch box with a cartoon character on it was made in 1935. It had a picture of Mickey Mouse.
This is a big year for us – we are sending our oldest child to kindergarten. It’s hard for me to believe that he will be at school making decisions for himself without me hovering over him. I am hoping that by talking about school lunches and reviewing the school menu, I can help steer him toward making good choices about nutritious food that will give him the energy to finish the rest of the school day. I am trying to encourage him to take a school lunch; at least occasionally. This will give him the opportunity to be part of the decisions and I will still have a little more control over what he is offered to eat.
Since I’m writing this article, it’s got me thinking ahead of the game. Hopefully I will be prepared when the time comes. We already went shopping for his lunchbox. My son’s requirement … fun characters. My requirement … good insulation to keep things cold. A quick trip to the store and we were both surprised to find several options to choose from, and we both walked away happy. I even found a cute frog shaped freezer block. (I’m hoping the frog will find his way home every day and the lunchbox lasts until school starts).
Now, what to put inside the box? There are pre-packaged, single-serve versions of everything, but they tend to be a little pricey and not very fresh-looking.
I was shocked to find out he will only have 15 minutes to eat lunch. Considering that it can take him up to an hour to eat a meal, this will present a challenge. I know he loves cheese and crackers. His favorite part is stacking them up and pretending it is a giant cheesy cracker sandwich. Since he will only have a short time for lunch, I know it is something he can eat quickly.
There are several varieties of food storage containers with individual compartments that make packing easy and keep the items separate. The portion sizes are just perfect for kids in the younger grades.
There are also a lot of great options for filling up the containers – fresh deli cheese, sliced meat, crackers, vegetable, fruit and a crunchy snack. I can even add ranch dressing or hummus for dipping. There are so many flavor combinations; I can probably get away with sending this off a few times a week.
My son’s other favorite lunch is ham sandwiches with deli American cheese. He loves tomatoes, but I am always trying to sneak in more vegetables. Whenever I put a slice of lettuce on his sandwich, he usually takes it right out. One day, I tried thinly slicing leaf lettuce to make a fine shred like they do at the sub shops. It worked! He didn’t even comment on the fact there was lettuce on the sandwich. It motivated me to try other things…shredded carrots, cucumbers, zucchini or even celery mixed into the lettuce. Most of these went unnoticed too.
Mixing up the type of bread can make it seem like a new idea. I can use a hoagie bun, thin sandwich bread, flatbread or even a hamburger bun for variety. Using a little ranch dressing is always a hit.
I’m looking forward to the big day, seeing him get on the bus with his lunchbox. It makes me happy and want to cry all at the same time.