You don’t have to look or listen far to see or hear the buzz about school lunches or concerns about their nutritional value. School cafeterias have turned to a lot of convenience foods, meaning the cooks in your child’s school cafeteria are not actually preparing the entrees, but rather heating up prepared meals in boil in bags and the like.
Across the nation, the move is on to creating more healthy cafeteria lunches, reducing sodium and added sugar as well as turning to whole-grains, vegetables and fruits that are fresh rather than packaged or canned. In spite of that trend, how is your child’s school cafeteria faring?
While the government continues to try to intervene on many levels to create more nutritious school lunches, let’s face it: school lunches aren’t the most appetizing. Plus, they are costly as school lunch prices rise every school year also.
Most statistics place the average cost of school lunches across the nation at around $2 or more per child for those who aren’t eligible for free or reduced lunch programs. Many experts likewise agree that school lunch prices are being impacted by gas prices and rising commodities costs, especially in the farming sector. When you pair that with the budget cuts most school districts currently face in this economy, every indicator would be that you can expect a continued rise in school lunch prices. Some experts predict that the cost of school lunches will continue increasing about .50 cents per year until the average school lunch price nationwide is around $3 per child per day.
At that price, parents would be wise to look towards sending lunches to school with their children versus buying it. At $3 per lunch, you could send quite a nice lunch from home.
Most savvy parents already know this. When you sit down and figure out what it costs you to make a lunch from home, you will realize you can actually save money that way. You will also be able to control what goes into the lunches and have the option of opting for healthier choices with less preservatives and better ingredients.
There is even help for parents with this nifty tool: The Healthy Lunch Maker which will calculate the nutritional value of the lunch you are sending. It’s customizable too with your child’s age and many variables of what you might be packing in your child’s lunch.
But what to do with that child who continually brings home half of their lunch in their lunchbox or backpack?
Parenting recently published 10 New Lunchbox Ideas that might be exactly what parents are looking for to see to it that their child’s packed lunch gets eaten.
What is even better is that these are healthy alternatives for school lunches that most children will find fun, maybe even your picky eater.
For example, take the Pita-Butter and Jelly Sandwich offers a yummy variation of the favorite peanut butter and jelly that addresses the peanut butter no-no at many schools throughout the nation. You can use cream cheese or even butter on a whole-wheat pita topping it with your child’s favorite jelly or even apple butter, depending on your child’s tastes. Parenting’s quick fix idea even includes sides and snacks that will make this a fun lunch idea for children, and even adults too!
The article also offers a fun turkey sandwich idea with a little bit of Thanksgiving flair, English muffin pizzas, fun luncheon French Toast sticks, how to turn a chicken salad sandwich from boring to yummy and lots more.
Still think your little one will pick away at the lunch you send? How about this fun theme: an under the sea lunch. It starts with a tuna sandwich with bread cut out like a fish with carrot eyes, coupled with some Jello and goldfish crackers. You can even label the ingredients so when children unpack their lunch it’s a bit of an adventure too.
Plus, the article and menu ideas offer up the concept of create your own Lunchables. While this is hardly an original idea, it brings to light the fact you can make these at a fraction of what they cost as a convenience food in grocery stores.
You can make it so your child is guaranteed to eat their lunch, especially your picky eater, by allowing them to participate in the creation of their own Lunchable style lunch. That way they choose what they want with your guidance.
You can start with your favorite crackers, cheeses and lunch meats but there are many other ways to get creative with this too. You can use leftover meats as well, like chicken, ham, roast beef, turkey and more. Then pair it with some fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy snack sides for a Lunchable worthy lunch without the price tag. You can buy a whole box of crackers for the price of one store bought Lunchable. This is a healthier, preservative-free alternative as well.
You can check out the 10 Fresh Lunchbox Ideas in their entirety as well as some other articles that offer some great suggestions for school lunch ideas from home instead of in the cafeteria:
Sandwich Recipes For Picky Eaters from Jamie and Bobby Deen, sons of Paula Deen
15 Nut-Free School Lunch Ideas
School Lunches and Snacks from Disney Family Fun
30 Ideas For School Lunches from Good Housekeeping