School lunch dread: revenge of the baby carrots

For us, this week is the start of school. We say goodbye to easier days, later bedtimes, no homework, and pajamas in the day for as long as we want. We begin Girl Guides, soccer practices, dance classes, run club and PAC meetings. We start up the dreaded, 9-month-long relationship with baby carrots.


It’s time to start making school lunches again. Baby carrots seem to be a staple of this. They are small, easy to digest, and pack (no pun intended) a bit of a crunch. Versatile, they contain good vitamin A/beta-kerotene for young eyes watching chalkboards and screens, and add a bit of color to the usual brown bag whites and browns.

Packing a lunch for a kid is hard to do. It’s not the doing; it’s the challenge of packing a balanced meal without repeating the same meal over and over. Kids are easily distracted and stimulus takes priority over eating, much like taste takes priority over hunger. My kids are certainly prone to this. A whole lunch can come home and they will be in a blood-sugar vortex, whining and cranky  – all because they haven’t eaten since the 10 AM snack. And for the snack, they ate cookies.

Seeing the baby carrots in the grocery store instills a little panic in me. When the school year is over and the staple is no longer part of my grocery repertoire I wean myself off adding them to my grocery cart. I learn to ignore them. By August I can go to the grocery store and not even see them. That reprieve is like a little bit of heaven.

But now, it’s time to go back to the routine and get the carrots into rotation again. It’s a filler food; it’s rabbit food. My kids prefer cucumbers and peppers and peas and kohl rabbi, but carrots are always added to the mix. It’s marking the change of season, like buying the turkey for Thanksgiving but without all the anticipation.

Not even this smiley robot can cheer up these baby carrots.

My kids are excited about going back to school; they are not thinking about lunches. I’ve asked them what they would like to have in their lunches. Generally they say they don’t know. When I make suggestions, they are quick to tell me that those are things they certainly don’t want.

I tried to encourage my daughter to be more independent and make her own choices; part of this was making her own  lunch. She packed pretty much what I usually pack her, and included baby carrots. I didn’t want to dissuade her from this as anything she did was more than nothing and I definitely saw this as behavior to encourage.

When I unpacked her lunch one afternoon it was all eaten – except for the carrots. I asked why she hadn’t eaten them. There are usually a few answers to this question: too full, no time, didn’t like them. This time she said she was ‘saving them for tomorrow.’ I suggested that she could have eaten them today and have fresh carrots tomorrow. She replied that  tomorrow her class was getting a pet rabbit in the classroom so she was saving her carrots for him. At least she knows how to share.


12 thoughts on “School lunch dread: revenge of the baby carrots

  1. I am just grateful that you have not gone into a full-blown bento-box lunch tutorial here. I am a teacher. I am sending a buck twenty with my baby to buy his lunch. So feel awesome for packing up baby carrots!!!

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I’m no lunch box tutor. I feel good about the carrots for about the first month. Then it just gets boring and the carrots remind me that I should pack something different.

  2. Just wait until they get a little older and refuse to take their lunch to school because it’s not “cool.” I have no idea what my son actually ate at school once I started giving him lunch money. Somehow, he survived, despite my worries!

    • I’m already getting the “not cool” comments from my older one. But she’s pretty aware of what tastes good and what is good for her. Still, I’m not sure how she survives some days when the lunch comes home intact.

  3. My daughter is a Junior in High School and she still packs a lunch box. She has yet another new one that is supposed to look like a character from one of her shows or something. What do I know, I’m Dad!
    It’s a balance of getting good food into the bag and making sure it doesn’t end up in the trash at school or still in the bag when I open it up the next morning. I always felt such guilt throwing away anything my mother packed. I don’t think my kids have that issue.

    • I also would never throw away anything that had been packed for me. Way too much guilt. My kids don’t throw anything away, but then they bring home half-eaten lunches for me to sift through. What do I do with half-eaten food? If I pack less the next day, then I hear complaints about how hungry they are.
      It’s always about creating a balance.
      Thanks for your comments!

      • I have seen a lot of food come home also and ask, What did you eat for lunch?”. Usually I get a shrug. But often I hear there isn’t enough time to eat. Lunch is a big social outlet for the kids and I think they end up spending to much time talking and having fun. Which is okay, I just wish they’d also eat their lunch!

      • I often hear this from my kids as well: not enough time. I think they do get distracted and start talking and suddenly their 20 min are up and it’s time to go outside. My kids stuff their pockets with what they can – if they are hungry enough – and eat outside.

  4. Ahhh yes…the blessed baby carrots. They eat their body weight in the things at dinner but they rarely eat them in their lunches and bring them home again. Then I eat them so they don’t go to waste…warm, clammy baby carrots.

  5. Really like your post! My oldest son starts kindergarten this week and in a weird way, I worry about how he’ll do at lunch more than any other part of the day. Who will he sit with? What will he eat? And there will definitely be baby carrots!

    • There are so many unknowns when your kids enter school and make their way in their own world. It’s pretty amazing how they find their way and have a day without you. They figure out what to do and generally do a really good job of it.
      I throw a little I-love-you type note in my kids’ lunch every now and then. They really appreciate it and know I am thinking of them and believe in them being their own individuals.
      Baby carrots all the way! 🙂

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