Reframing School Lunches

September 2022

By Tracy Turi, WEforum Editor


Reframe school lunchbox essentials: mix-and-match sushi-style burrito wraps your kids can assemble.

Finding the right nutritional balance to help reinforce positive life-long eating habits is a constant battle in most families. It also takes a degree in operations management to get a family off to school every morning without numerous mishaps, and nutritious school lunches are just one in a long list of daily responsibilities.

School lunch essentials typically include ultra-processed snack foods like cheese sticks, granola bars, chips, and mix-in yogurt cups laden with added sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats. Even if your children aren’t living in a vegan or vegetarian home, awareness around plant-based whole foods has been growing. Now is a perfect opportunity to teach our kids to embrace real food and the natural abundance of real plants growing around us that can’t be appreciated when unwrapping a shrink-wrapped snack.

Among a sea of highly qualified child nutrition experts, Ellyn Satter remains the foremost child nutrition authority on cultivating a healthy relationship around food. Satter has been giving parents common sense advice since the 1960s and promotes a “division of responsibility” method that puts children in charge of their meals by providing them the latitude to mature into healthy eaters. The parent’s role? To offer nutritious options.

By elevating what we expect of our children, we guide their expectations of themselves and their attitudes about engaging in any kind of work. Nutritious food is a gift. Work, even the process of making school lunches, is a privilege, and the process of a parent helping to promote a child’s success is a blessing.

Follow these steps to make school lunches (and all meals throughout the week) less chaotic.

First, shop ahead of time, prepping and cooking your fresh ingredients straight from the grocery bag. You don’t need a recipe or any fancy culinary techniques. Just slice up your raw ingredients and quickly roast, steam, or saute everything else. Store each ingredient in a separate airtight container in the fridge for the week. In addition to making school lunches a cinch, this hack will also pave the way for quickly finishing off every other meal throughout the week, like grain and pasta bowls. Click here to teach children self-reliance in the kitchen.

Second, think like a prep cook. Set out a variety of wraps on the counter and your array of prepped leftovers and prepped raw and cooked ingredients, like fresh fruit, vegetables and proteins for each child to select from.

Third, treat school lunches like a fun project and delegate the responsibility of assembling a wrap to each child, regardless of age. This step adds a bit of mindfulness to the morning routine (or the night before, if it’s less chaotic) and makes it easy for each child to assemble and customize their school lunch wrap quickly. Let kids use their imaginations to create various nutritious and yummy sushi-style burrito wraps.

Click here to teach children discerning eating habits.

Click here for a simplified meal prep guide.