It takes bravery to post photos of your kid’s lunch box. Okay, not rescuing-someone-from-a-burning-building bravery, but it still takes guts. Because you’re inviting people to share their opinions on some personal decisions you’ve made.
And oh, do people love to share their opinions! They ask you if it’s organic. They call you a good mom. Or a bad mom. They deem your choices smart. Or toxic. I’m lucky that the community on my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook page is kind and supportive–but I’ve gotten some flak in the past and seen other bloggers get far worse.
Yet there’s a recurring comment I get when I post pictures of my kids’ lunch boxes, like the ones in the photos above: At least one person says that it doesn’t look like much food and that their child would still be hungry.
I always welcome different opinions, but it strikes me as strange that people would question whether someone else gives their kids enough food. As parents, we know our children pretty well, right? And if you regularly read my blog, you know that I have a very reasonable and unrestrictive philosophy when it comes to feeding my kids.
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Still, it brings up a great question: How much food SHOULD you pack in your child’s lunch box? That’s obviously going to be different for everyone, since each child is unique–and appetites can vary widely from day to day and year to year. I post lunch box photos to provide ideas, not prescribe portion sizes.
It’s true that my kids aren’t very big eaters. Both eat a pretty varied diet, and I’d never label either of them as “picky”. But having had many of their friends pass through my kitchen, I know there are children whose appetites are much larger. Neither of my boys has hit a big growth spurt yet, so I know heftier appetites are on the horizon.
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But here is something important that I’ve learned: The less I pack, the more they eat.
I don’t have any science to back this up. But in my eight years of packing lunches, I’ve found that it works. I’m sure it has something to do with a large volume of food seeming overwhelming and unappetizing. It also makes sense that if I pack a big portion of a food they really prefer (like crackers) they may devour it at the expense of touching, say, the carrots. So I pack smaller, more doable lunch box portion sizes of everything–which usually means almost everything is eaten. Yes, my older son will still come back with some uneaten veggies. And there are days when a lot of lunch comes home for one reason or another, but for the most part this strategy has worked wonders.
Most importantly, I check in with them about the portions. If I pack lunch for them, I almost always ask, “Does this look like too much food, not enough, or just right?” If they pack lunch for themselves, I generally leave them alone. But if they bring home a lot of uneaten food, we might talk about why and what to do differently tomorrow. Food waste is something I try hard to avoid and something I want to teach my kids to avoid too.
Want more information on the lunch boxes in the photos above? Check out this post for the details: My Favorite Lunch Boxes For Kids.
What’s YOUR strategy for figuring out the best lunch box portion sizes for your kids?