Struggling to come up with healthy school lunches, I grilled other mothers about what they were packing and found most were relying on Greek yogurt, sandwiches, and fruit salad. My picky toddler wouldn't touch the PB&J or the cantaloupe, so I chose to try Greek yogurt. The next day when picking him up from school his teacher told me that he had a "violent reaction" to the yogurt. Thinking immediately that she meant a food allergy, I asked her to describe exactly what happened. She described that he nearly threw the yogurt at her and yelled that he never wanted yogurt again. She had never seen him, or any child, react so negatively to their lunch. Epic lunch fail.
Although I do not send yogurt anymore, I do not let this incident stop me from trying new things. We have our standards, cheese sticks, granola bars, macaroni, but I rotate in healthy sides that he can trial. While I hate to put the teachers in the middle of a food war, I think it is important that he continue to be challenged and that his repertoire be broadened. Today we tried pineapple and while most of it came home untouched, I am hopeful that someday he will enjoy it as much as I do. I am not quite packing him a portion of my kale salad, but we are taking baby steps.
Packing lunches in the morning can be one of the more time-consuming parts of my morning, but I enjoy putting together healthy meals for my kids. One of the ways that I make things go smoother in the morning is laying out the supplies the night before. I line up their lunchboxes and thermoses and bag up any dry, non-perishable snacks. Then in the morning, I just have to pour their milk and water and pack up their fresh foods. Each meal has a protein, fruit/veggie, and grain. While there may some sugar in his foods, we avoid cookies, juice, and other sweets. The kids know that they need to eat their "growing foods" (main dish, fruit, vegetables) before they can eat their snacks (crackers, pretzels), and they often boast on the car ride home about what "growing foods" they ate.
The daily decision about what to pack for lunch is an ongoing struggle. I am always searching for creative ideas that do not entail me acting as a sushi chef at 6 AM or creating 3D animals out of cold cuts and grapes. Using a few staples with a few unique items in the rotation keeps things routine and comfortable but not stale.