Tips to Help with Meal Prepping for Kids
Whether you’re a working parent, single parent, or a stay-at-home parent, the bottom line is that you’ve got a busy schedule, and anything that can be done to alleviate some stress in your day is welcome.
One tried and true thing you can do to take some pressure off your day is to meal prep your kids’ lunches! This simple, fun process not only helps you prepare for the week, but it can be a fun activity for both you and your child that will benefit them in more ways than one.
Here are tips to help you with lunch meal prep for your kids.
Get Your Kids Involved
Invite your kids to help you make their lunches as soon as they are old enough and start showing interest in helping you out in the kitchen. Kids are more likely to eat their lunches (and any meal) if they helped prepare the food.
And if your kids are too young to help with meal prep, get them involved at the grocery store. While food shopping, talk about the food you’re buying and explain to your kids what you plan to make for their lunches.
Let your kids choose one of a few healthy options from each food group when meal prepping, such as between an apple, orange, or banana for a snack. If they have some say in their lunch food, they’ll be more likely to enjoy it.
One way to get your kids to pack a healthy lunch is to use a bin system filled with foods from each food group. And then get your kids to choose one item from each bin and pack it into their lunch boxes (depending on their age, this can help them develop their fine motor skills too!).
Here are examples of healthy foods to include in each bin:
- Dairy bin—yogurt, cheese sticks, cheese cubes
- Protein bin—nuts, hard-boiled eggs, shredded chicken, meat slices, turkey cubes
- Fruit bin—containers of applesauce, fresh-cut fruit (soaked in pineapple juice for 10 minutes to stay fresh for longer)
- Veggie bin—carrots sticks or baby carrots, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, edamame
- Grains bin—crackers, pita bread
- Treats bin—homemade granola bars, fruit leather, energy bites, trail mix, muffins, dark chocolate
Find the Best Lunchbox
Consider using leak-proof bento boxes to pack your kids’ lunches. Bento boxes have several compartments of various sizes to help separate foods and control portion sizes.
Kids love eating out of bento boxes because they look neat. And they’re more likely to eat foods they’re picky about if organized in an interesting compartment.
Bento boxes also encourage parents to add more variety to their kids’ lunches so their children will have a more balanced meal with servings from each food group.
Make Your Own Snacks and Limit Processed Ones
Snacks give kids the extra energy to keep them going throughout the day. But the ingredients in some snacks can be more harmful than helpful to your kid’s health.
Processed snacks are high in sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats, while lacking the essential nutrients kids need in their diet.
So to avoid giving your kids processed foods that will make them feel worse throughout the day, consider making your own healthy snacks instead.
There are plenty of kid-friendly meal prep recipes online for easy, healthy snacks for kids’ lunches, such as:
- Fruit leathers
- Yogurt covered raisins
- Ants on a log
- No-bake energy bites
- Apple chips
Make It Healthy and Fun!
Kid-friendly meal prep can be fun while still being healthy. Some kids may not be keen on eating healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables. So to make these foods more enticing for your kids, make the food fun to eat.
You can use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of foods and a melon baller to make balls of fruit. You can also use kid-friendly skewers to make colourful food kebabs.
Another way to make healthy food fun is to follow a food theme each day, such as a colour theme or foods that start with a certain letter of the alphabet.
Freeze Your Meals
Whether you make sandwiches, soups, rice, pasta, or other meals ahead of time, you can make a large batch of these meals and freeze them to keep them fresh for longer.
This can help you save time for lunch prep, and the meals will also stay cool in the lunchbox, thawing by lunchtime and in time for your kids to eat.
Make Lunches at Night to Save On Time
In the evenings, set up a lunch-packing station in your kitchen where you can spend time with your kids and prep lunches for the next day.
Not only will this give you some extra quality time together before bed, but it will also help save you time the next morning when you’re rushing to get everyone out the door in time for school and work.
Kids need to drink 6 to 8 cups of water each day, and more so when it’s hot or their activity levels are high. Hydration is key for your child’s overall health, cognitive abilities, energy, and concentration at school.
So instead of packing sugar-filled juice boxes in your child’s lunch, consider only sending your kid to school with a reusable water bottle that they picked out. A favourite water bottle will encourage your child to drink more water during the day and stay hydrated.
Also, encourage them to drink the whole bottle at least twice a day at school. If they feel like it’s a challenge to drink two bottles a day, then they will be motivated to complete the challenge.
And if your kid finds water too boring, add a few pieces of frozen fruit to their water bottle to make the water tasty and keep the water cold.
Benefits for Your Child
Lunch prep for kids helps your child in more ways than one, including:
- Healthy, prepped meals for the week
- More family time
- Learning to stay organized
- Learning about the importance of healthy food choices
- Learning how to cook!
Lunch prep can help you save plenty of time and help your kids eat healthy, balanced lunches. So spend quality time with your kids and let them help you prep their lunches (and even yours) ahead of time. You’ll thank yourself the next morning when you’re rushing to get everyone out the door on time.