Salty and sugary foods are abundant in school cafeterias and they’re tempting to kids.
They’re colorful, quick and the other kids are eating them! We all want our children to eat a healthy lunch, so we choose foods thoughtfully and pack lunches with care, only to hear that our child has traded away their veggie pita for a bag of chips! We have to work harder to make sure the child will want to keep the lunch we send! Letting kids help in the selection of lunch items, offering options, and making the presentation snazzy are all good steps towards this goal.
Get your kids involved in helping to make their own school lunches. Children like having a say in what goes into the lunchbox, and feeling that sense of ownership in lunch preparation makes them more likely to eat what you send. Pack the lunch the night before to avoid the stress of trying to assemble it when time is limited by the hectic morning rush. Kids can help with the planning and shopping if you offer some good options. For example, suggest three different healthy sandwich choices: lean chicken, tuna salad, or peanut butter. Have them choose the fruit they want…some kids just like apples, and while you may think that variety is the spice of life, allowing children to select their favorite ups the chances they’ll eat it. Ask for their opinion: carrots or celery, broccoli trees or pepper strips with a dipping sauce…ranch dressing or hummus? It’s a way for everybody to win! You’ll know that you are sending a nutritionally balanced lunch and the child gets an opportunity to make the choices.
There’s nothing especially exciting about a plain sandwich. Add a little pizzazz by using a cookie cutter to make it into a fun shape, or send a rolled sandwich or pita pocket instead. There’s nothing wrong with sending a school lunch without the traditional sandwich. A small container of whole wheat crackers with some cheese slices and chicken cold-cuts makes a nice change, and kids like assembling their own lunch at mealtime. Healthy nibbles are a great option when sandwiches seem boring and unappealing to your child. Let them pack fruit salad or yogurt instead! Have a thermos handy so they can take favorites like soups and stews, or send appealing leftovers you know they like along for lunch…macaroni salad or a slice of homemade meatloaf with a sneaky serving of vegetables hidden inside! Consider baking up some sweet treats to add as a snack or dessert: cookie bars with a serving of fruit and nuts inside, or moist muffins made with pumpkin or carrots, apples and spices.
With a little creativity and your child’s involvement, you can make a lunch your kids will eat and enjoy. They might be persuaded to share, but they won’t trade it or throw it away!