Lunch Solutions

January 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm (Cooking, Positive Discipline)

In the beginning of the school year, Elia’s lunch would sometimes come home uneaten. Then, ‘occasionally’ turned into ‘most days’…Most days, she wasn’t eating what I had packed for her. And it’s not like I was sending along brussels sprout casserole with a side of raw onions. I made lunches that she eats at home and I figured she’d eat at school. Well, she was not eating them.

I started feeling frustrated with regard to the time I had spent making and packing theses lunches, angry for the  amount of food that was being wasted, and annoyed at my daughter’s lack of interest in nourishing her body. Some of that I understand. At seven years old, I don’t think I was too interested in nourishing my body. Learning to take care oneself is a long process.

But I was frustrated with the thought that I was wasting time and money on food that ended up in the garbage. The lunch situation wasn’t working for me, and it didn’t seem to be working for Elia, either.

So a couple of months ago she and I brainstormed some some options intended to make school lunch more efficient and enjoyable:

  • I could continue making her lunches and just make sure they were her favorite foods: bread, macaroni and cheese, pretzels, cereal, juice and just about any dessert imaginable. (Nutritionally speaking, that didn’t work for me.)
  • She could buy the school lunch if she’d rather eat what they serve. (She would rather not.)
  • Whatever she doesn’t eat in her lunch, she could eat for her snack when she gets home.
  • She could skip lunch altogether and I’d make her a large, healthy snack when she got home.
  • She could pack her own lunch with things she knows she likes and that I know meet her nutritional needs.

The one we agreed to try was the last one; Elia would make her own lunch everyday. If she forgets, she will either eat the school sandwich option or skip lunch and just have a snack when she gets home.

At first, her ideal list of lunch choices were the ones listed above and included more sugar than I deemed necessary or acceptable. We bantered with, “How about this?” and “I’m not OK with that” until we settled on a few protein main courses and a few nutritionally dense sides. It turns out that, between Elia and I, mutually agreeable foods do exist!

Main courses:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Ham and cheese sandwich
  • Leftover pizza


  • Apple slices
  • Pistachios
  • Carrot sticks
  • Snap peas
  • Honey yogurt

Desserts (if I happen to have anything made):

  • Nut bars
  • Dark chocolate pudding
  • Oatmeal flax bars

The list is small but growing. Most importantly, everyone’s needs are met, and lunchtime is not a source of strife for either of us. Elia eats the food she prepares for herself, and all of the options are ones that I’m OK with. She is learning how to put together a balanced meal for herself, and is proud to be able to take care of herself in this way.

This morning’s loaf, sprouted wheat:

Huckleberry jam goes under the peanut butter.

Packing it up!

And a dessert/ snack that we all agree on; grain-free dark chocolate nut bars:

1 cup almonds

1 cup hazelnuts

1 1/2 cups pecans

2/3 cup flax meal

2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup almond butter

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. blackstrap molasses

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Process everything except the oil and chocolate in a food processor until the consistency is fairly smooth (about 20-30 seconds). Drizzle in the oil until a coarse paste forms. Press into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or small saucepan over low heat and drizzle on bars. Chill at least 1 hour.

I cut mine into small bars and keep them stored in a container in the fridge. It’s a win-win-win for the kids and I breakfast, snack, or dessert!


  1. abra said,

    I am having the same issue with my 6 year old son. If our school would allow nuts, he would eat peanut butter and jelly every day but he can’t. I am still frustrated and so is he. I will try the make your own lunch deal.

  2. Lisa said,

    Great that you worked out the solution with her. She has food she likes and makes the lunch for herself.

  3. mistakenmama said,

    What great options! Hopefully her healthy eating habits will influence friends at school in a good way.

  4. Samantha said,

    I enjoyed this post. I have had the same issue with my 7 year old daughter.
    I giver her a couple of choices and let her pick. If she doesn’t eat it, it is an after school snack. After seeing this I may be willing to let her make her own lunch.

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