I have 3 younguns in school (1 in preschool) & my mortal enemy is MAKING LUNCHES. It's like a parenting pop quiz every morning, when I'm already not at my best, "What do we have? Is it fresh, whole grain, low sugar, low salt, not embarrassing, of a color found in nature, not too much packaging?" To combat this enemy I give you...
The Lunch Machine!
It's a 3-part flip book, like ones my kids have to make silly outfits on people or fantastic bug bodies, but this one makes meals.
I took apart a 4-color spiral bound book of index cards, cut 3 sets of the colored pages into thirds (with a little more shaved off so that the pages would turn easily), turned the covers inside out & rebound it. **Keep 4 year olds away from the binding coil if you want to use it again. Ask me how I know.
I left the remaining color of pages intact (pink in my case) & meant to put them in back, but did it in front instead.
I had the kids help fill in the pages by section: orange = proteins, yellow = grains, green = fruit/ veggies. We came up with so many simple things, I was surprised. I listed condiments ("No, jelly is a condiment, it is not a fruit, it says so on the condiment list!") and treats guidelines (no more than 2 cookies, etc). And bust my britches, it works!! The kids are responsible for their own lunch creations & are learning how much they can eat in the short lunch period. Their combos can be weird (tortillas, cream cheese, red peppers), but this honey badger DON'T CARE.
It's most certainly not the most 'crafty' of creations, but there is a direct & opposite corollary between how much time you spend on something & how much a kid will like/ wear it (ask any knitter).
Now all we need is a Lunch Machine tracking device (it's named after the scene where PeeWee Herman makes his breakfast in 'Big Adventure', called Breakfast Machine, BTW).