School bells are ringing for many students this week. Packed school lunches do not have to be boring. Taking food from home is a great reason for carrying a really cool lunchbox.
When a child sits down to eat at school and trashes the food, the purpose of the healthy lunch is a moot point. One way to improve the odds that the children will eat a healthy lunch is to allow them to be part of the preparation.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has lunch ideas and recipes on its website. More fruits and vegetables with less sugar and salt are encouraged. Healthier lunches provide students the nutrients needed to perform well in school and have enough energy to be active at recess and sports.
Receiving adequate nutrition during growth and development helps them to grow into healthier adults. But only if they eat those healthy lunches. Allowing kids to pick out their own recipes and shop for the ingredients increases acceptance of new lunch items. Getting the kids to help in preparation of lunches makes them want to eat their own creations.
A trip to the grocery store is a good time to get a child interested in trying a new fruit or vegetable. Sharing a new food with your child before putting it in their lunch shows them that you aren’t afraid of trying something new either.
Preparing lunches the night before school decreases the rush as family members get ready for school or work in the morning. Make lunches for each other; load them with fruits, vegetables, and a lot of love.
Lunches with different themes enhance acceptance. Packing items that are only one color can be fun. Have a cultural lunch, a tortilla wrap for Mexican day, or a meatball sandwich for an Italian day.
Switch up a peanut butter sandwich with an added slice of apple or banana. Other nut butters are a delightful surprise with a few sliced strawberries instead of jam.
Children who turn their nose up at whole grain bread may accept a compromise of a sandwich that is half white bread and the other slice whole grain. Choose lean meats and skinless chicken to put between those pieces of bread. Adding spinach instead of lettuce to the sandwich doesn’t make the bread soggy and provides added nutrients.
Cheese adds calcium, but also a lot of fat. Purchase real cheese instead of cheese food or a cheese product.
Freeze a yogurt to not only add a chilly treat but keep the lunch cool before eating. A frozen water bottle supplies much needed water and the temperature safe. Ice packs work well, too.
A lunch that will end up in a child’s stomach and not the trash is the goal. Kids love finger foods. Sending ready to eat food will allow the student to eat and socialize at the same time. Don’t forget an “I love you” note. Even the big kids like to receive them in their lunch.
Bobbie Randall is a registered, licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator in Wooster, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.