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Why you shouldn't make a cute lunch box for the first day of school

If I see another link with cute lunch box ideas my head might explode. It’s not because they aren’t cute or colorful or healthy or because they look like way too much work (for the record, they do look a tad too much effort for me). Instead it’s because we are spending too much time focusing on the wrong thing. While this might be the year that you are determined to be a parenting superstar by doing it all… I’m here to say – DON’T! When it comes to feeding your family there is one thing that can keep you all healthier, happier and less stressed and it is much more important than lunch boxes...

First though, here are my reasons for skipping the cute lunch box next week.

  1. As I’ve mentioned before… some of them seem like a lot of work. Especially anything that creates happy faces, cute animals or flower shapes out of food.

  2. Let’s assume you start off with these cute lunches and you keep going for a couple of weeks. Then what? Week Three you just send in a plain old sandwich? With no note? It’s not that your child will be totally disappointed but right as the academics start kicking in doesn’t seem like the best time to lower the food standards. Seriously, start the year with average lunch boxes then once in a while throw in a real winner to surprise them. That’s right, keep expectations nice and low.

  3. Skewers and kabobs and kindergarteners just seems like trouble to me

  4. You can purchase the school lunch instead. This great article from Chef Ann Foundation gives some great reasons why.

So if you aren’t going to spend all your energy on these lunch boxes what should you be focusing on instead? Family dinner! It’s that simple but it is OH SO IMPORTANT.

The research is plentiful – children that share a family meal at least three times a week are more likely to perform better in school, more likely to resist unhealthy peer pressure and less likely to engage in risky behaviors (drugs and alcohol) than children who don’t. A recent article in the Journal of Family Psychology also showed that instilling a strong dinnertime routine can also help children maintain a healthy weight.

Scheduling issues getting in the way of family dinner? Have a family breakfast instead. The point isn’t about the time of day or the food you are eating (although I encourage you to add some fresh fruit and veg to the meal) it is about the family connection. The time to be with each other without electronic devices and to connect: Find out what’s going on at school, with their friends etc. Quite frankly I don’t even want you stressing too much about what to make for family dinner. First you need to focus on finding the time to eat together and if you only have time to pick up take-out then that’s a good starting point. Once you have the routine down you can start getting more adventurous with what you prepare for the meal. Knowing that you are there for them at the end of the day to share a meal is going to do a lot more for them than any happy face animal sandwich could ever do.

So that’s my point. If you want to step up your game this year when it comes to feeding your children I say focus on the family meals instead of the lunch boxes. And hey, if you have the time and energy to do both then yes, you are doing a fabulous job. Just try not to rub it in anyone else’s face. Everyone is just doing the best they can.

Gemma Saylor RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Long Island NY. She is the founder of The Food Wizard for Kids - Making food and nutrition fun for the whole family.

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