Once our kids leave the house without us, there’s no telling what they’ll eat (or not eat.) If you want them to eat a healthy lunch, here are some “do” and “don’t” tips for what to send with them.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Think back to when you were a kid in school, and it was lunchtime. Was eating on your mind? Not really. You may have been hungry, but the real motivation was recess! Playing is the priority, so the quicker the meal is over, the faster the fun begins.
What to DO:
-Pack stuff you know they like. If the goal is to get them to eat (for body and brain fuel), then give them something that’s been tried and true.
–Small portions are key. If it’s too big or looks overwhelming, they might take a few bites and toss the remainder. Or, they might avoid eating it altogether.
– cut sandwiches into quarters; make it appealing and not-smelly; seriously, if it looks or smells gross, they’re going to ignore it.
– send apple slices or an already-peeled orange (instead of the whole fruit); remember, they’re in a hurry
– 2 short celery sticks and 2 baby carrot sticks are plenty
– a small yogurt is fine, but remember to pack a spoon
– granola or nut bars are great, but try and keep sugar content low and protein power high
–Healthy Options. Pack water instead of juice. Fresh fruit should replace a processed cookie. No candy! Use multigrain for sandwich bread.
Instead of a traditional sandwich, you can try:
- rolling turkey slices around a cheese stick
- a small packet of peanut or almond butter and fruit or veggies to dip
- a small container of pre-cut pieces of grilled chicken
- packing food in a bento box; make it easy for your kids to access and eat their healthy foods.
Other DO’s and DON’T’s:
-Don’t pack gooey, messy, or smelly. Avoid overusing condiments like mayo or ketchup. After hours in a bag or box, those ingredients seep into foods making them unappealing. (Besides, mustard and pesto are healthier “spread” choices.)
Tuna fish is a great protein, but maybe wait for dinner or weekends. Your kid doesn’t need his breath, clothes, or lunchbox to stink all day.
-Read ingredients on pre-packaged lunches. Yes, the grocery store offers inexpensive, completely-processed food kits with juice and candy, which looks very exciting to many kids. They are not healthy.
Alternately, higher-end, health conscious markets will carry pre-packed snack or lunch kits that are much more nutritious—but still check the ingredients first. Then think, “Will my kid eat what’s in this?” Regardless if it looks good to you, your child still may not like it.
-Cut off the crust. If your kid is one who refuses to eat crust from his sandwich, just cut it off before you send it with him. Choose your battles. Overall, you’ll be wasting less food, and you’ll be getting him to eat every part that you send with him.
-Be Cautious of Leftovers. Sure, pizza is a great lunch when it’s leftover from last night’s dinner. But a brocolli and pasta dish is not. First off, it will smell. Second, you’ll need to pack a fork and it will be messy. Lastly, soggy old broccoli is gross. Before you send what you know they liked yesterday, think about how it will pack and arrive today.
-Have Kids Help You Pack Their Lunch. Although some find it as just another “chore”, most children enjoy getting involved in preparing for their midday school or camp meal. Especially if you allow them to add something enticing. Maybe y’all made some pumpkin bread over the weekend (and added protein powder into your mix.) Placing a slice of that into a lunchbox is fun!
Kids are more apt to eat their meals if they feel they’ve had some participation in the preparation. Reminding your children about the benefits of healthy food choices is important, too. Making foods appealing and tasty is another level of keeping nutritious foods a habit and part of your family’s lifestyle.