School lunches can be a challenge. While perhaps they are doing a better job than in the past, many cafeteria lunches are less than ideal. Packing lunches at home takes time. Keeping them varied and interesting stretches the imagination.
What’s more, parents may discover that children aren’t eating much lunch. In their effort to get out and play they eat the minimum required by lunchroom staffs before heading to the playground. Often children trade lunch items and aren’t eating what you have packed for them.
Years ago one of my daughters complained, “Mommy, no one will trade lunches with me because mine is too healthy.” That was the day we began making lunches together. While I thought that I was packing kid friendly lunches, clearly, I had a lot to learn.
If your children are picky eaters, complain about the lunches you pack, or if they are old enough to help pack their own, the following tips may pique their interest.
A number of steps can be taken to begin preparing your children for thinking about healthy food. If you serve a well-balanced breakfast and dinner they probably are used to eating well. And it isn’t until their lunch is compared with others that they become aware of differences. Start the healthy thinking habit together.
If children are to be healthy eaters and assist in packing their own lunches, the ingredients must be on hand. It’s frustrating to have a lunch idea but not to have the ingredients available.
All of these foods won’t appeal to all children, but many will. Each is a tried and true lunch choice, though, and might work in your family. Add them to the list you started during the preparation period. Keep the list growing so that many choices are available.
Take time every week to tuck a surprise into the lunch bag. This could be an “I love you” note, a sticker, a cookie, or fruit leather. If you watch sugar intake, buy cookies at the health food store that are sweetened with applesauce or prunes. When kids are used to highly sugared cookies, it takes some time to get used to less sweet treats, but usually they end up liking them.
Be willing to compromise. You can’t expect to move too quickly into more healthy lunches. Kids will end up not eating them. When my daughter began making her own lunch choices, she wanted peanut butter on white bread--the soft airy kind. She didn’t want the bread cut but folded over. She took her special sandwich for weeks. As long as she had that, she was willing to include some healthy additions in her lunch bag. We both compromised.
Making school lunches a joint project provides learning and fun. By moving slowly and consistently into healthy eating, you are helping your child develop positive life-long nutrition patterns.