Last year was my first back-to-school experience and it was bitter sweet.
My first born, Sienna, was going into Junior Kindergarten and I had no clue what to expect. So in the days leading up to her first day of school I was a mix (and a mess) of emotions…
…Excited (this was a new chapter for all of us)
…Sad (she was growing up too fast)
…Worried (I didn’t know if my former ‘picky eater’ would starve)
…Overwhelmed (the thought of packing lunches for the school year was just too much)
When I dropped her off that first day I was a sobbing mess. You see, this little girl had one hell of a ride in her short life of 4 years.
…Countless doctor’s appointments
…And she was one of the worst eaters on the planet.
I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my vulnerable child and picky eater for the first time.
While we had a few rough mornings with Sienna clinging to my legs at drop off. Yet overall, we survived the school year. And she was always smiling when the bell rang at the end of the day.
So there were a few reasons things went WAY smoother than I expected for our first back-to-school experience.
We did a couple things that saved our sanity. And we will 100% continue to do them this year.
Here they are…
TIP #1: Wear sunglasses
Dropping this little girl off at school (and knowing she would be alone in a new place) was terrifying. The tears, oh the tears! Despite being a cloudy morning, I opted to wear sunglasses walking Sienna to school last year for the first week.
Handing her over to complete strangers felt so unnatural!
And Naomi made it worse when she cried saying “Mommy, why are we leaving Sienna all alone? I want her to come home with us“.
Cue more tears!!
So my first tip for newbies like me is to WEAR SUNGLASSES on that first week of school. It’s not for the faint of heart!
Stay positive though. Things get better after a few weeks and eventually sunglasses are no longer needed.
My next stress was the infamous lunch box. Every parent seemed to be talking about them on Facebook groups and it stressed me out! But I surprised myself.
Packing her little lunch box was…
Dare I say…
The kitchen is my happy place, so being able to spend more time in it is always welcomed. I also loved the challenge of coming up with ideas.
But I can see why parents dread packing lunches.
Trying to be creative and find foods your kids will eat for 190 days of the year is draining! Especially the picky eaters.
So I have a few lunch packing sanity savers for you next…
TIP #2: Pack lunch post dinner
Trying to prep lunch and snacks during the morning rush is a recipe for disaster. Last time I tried that, I forgot to include utensils and Sienna had to eat a stir-fry with her hands. Whoops!
So…I highly recommend doing the lunch prep (for you and the kids) while you’re putting dinner away. The dishes are already out so why not right?
Then that frees up at least 5 minutes in the morning, so you can make yourself a yummy energy-boosting smoothie!
TIP #3: Keep a list of their “green” foods
Is it just me, or is your brain cluttered with everything you have to remember.
Let’s take one thing off your mind when it comes lunches.
Personally, I like to keep a running list of Sienna’s go-to foods so I don’t have to rack my brain every night. I know what those foods are, but with all the other “noise” in my head and distractions, I usually only resort to a shorter list.
Unless I have my trusty list. That’s my world opens up and her lunch gets more interesting!
To avoid serving your child the same foods all week, take a few minutes to jot down ALL their “green” foods (these are the items they will eat at least 50% of the time). Every time they eat something new, add it to the list!
Be as detailed as you can. A cooked carrot is different from a raw one – both from a nutritional and sensory perspective (appearance/texture/taste).
So no need to overthink lunches everyday.
You can simply glance and grab.
I can boldly say that by having a list, you will stay out of the lunch and snack rut and offer more variety. This is key for nipping picky eating in the bud.
TIP #4: Get a good lunch box
Here are a few things to look for:
- Leak-proof (pasta sauce sneaking onto their apple slices won’t go over well!)
- Sections that are big enough to hold larger items and small enough for dips
- Lightweight enough for your child to carry
- Strong enough to sustain a few drops
- Easy to open (lunches are short, so I didn’t want Sienna to waste her time fiddling with her lunch box)
- Easy to wash because you’ll be doing it daily! (dishwasher safe is key)
- Environmentally friendly – please please opt for containers over disposable plastic baggies and plastic wrap for the sake of our planet. If it’s not a lunch box, choose mini reusable containers.
We opted for the Bentgo Kids for all the reasons listed above, and it has been awesome. Once we’re done with it though, I’ll likely try a stainless steel option like this as we try to move away from plastic.
What’s your favourite lunch box? Share below.
TIP #5: Get some lunch box inspiration
Just as we get bored eating the same ol’ things, our kids do to! Offering variety is important if we’re trying to expand our child’s repertoire of foods.
I took photos of the odd lunch box last year and thought I’d pass them along to help you get the ball rolling. You can see what I put in each section and how I ensure they were all balanced.
TIP #6: Balance those boxes!
Picking up a hangry kid after school isn’t enjoyable. There’s one way to remedy this. Those tantrums are either because they are tired or because they are hungry.
One way to keep them happy vs. hangry is by including balanced meal and snack options.
Every meal and snack should include these 4 things to keep blood sugars stable…so that they don’t experience spikes and falls in their glucose levels during the day. The afternoon snack is a great opportunity to include some healthy fats, fiber and protein to keep their battery charged until dinner time.
TIP #7: Go simple for breakfast
I find the mornings dictate my mood for the rest of the day.
The more frazzled I am in the morning, the more scattered and stressed I am at work. One way I take the edge off is by keeping things simple (and balanced) for breakfast.
Earmark 3 token recipes to rotate through each week. You can make extras and keep in the fridge (or freezer) for another day.
These are some of my go-to breakfast recipes. All are picky eater and family friendly!
TIP #7: Master mealtimes
Tip #6 is all about WHAT we offer for breakfast.
This tip is focused on the HOW.
If you’ve followed me for a little bit, you know I focus on both – as a Family Nutritionist and a Picky Eating Expert.
Because we all know how painful and irritating it is when our kids forgo breakfast. We don’t need to add the power struggle to the morning routine. It sucks sending them to school (or to bed hungry) with an empty tummy. Neither feels good as a parent.
The toughest part for us is knowing that we are doing and saying the right things to help our kids happily sit at the table, try new foods and ultimately develop a healthy relationship with food.
TIP #8: Stock up on ‘sanity snacks’
I’m love my homemade snacks, but life happens and I may not be able to make freshly baked spinach muffins every week. So I always have two ‘sanity snacks’ (emergency snacks) on hand that I can grab on those days when I can’t get my s#$% together.
These are packaged snacks that are the next best thing to homemade options. (I just wish there was less packaging!!)
Here are some of go-to packaged snacks we love:
- Seaweed snacks
- Roasted chickpeas
- Beet crackers / Mary’s Crackers
- And a much longer list here!
Hope this help you out as we enter back-to-school season.
I’m actually pretty jazzed about it this year. Sienna is going into French Immersion which is super exciting! Parlez vous francais? The drop off on the other hand, I’m not as thrilled about. So if you see me with shades you know those eyes are welling up!
Best of luck next week moms and dads! If you have any sanity savers for the rest of us, share below!