When parents consider the present state of many school lunch programs with their massive budget cuts and little regard for nutrition they are left in a state of concern about what their kids will be eating during the school day. If you are worried about what your school age child is eating (or not eating) during their school day you are not alone. Most parents are left to wonder if they do pack a brown bag lunch for their kid will it even be eaten? If you are looking for ways to see that your little darling gets a healthy, nutritious lunch during their school day here are some tips on how to make your child’s lunch more nutritious.
•Include your child in the planning. It will not help at all if you pack a turkey/tortilla wrap if your little one won’t touch turkey and hates wraps. You may be surprised at what your child will offer as suggestions for their lunch if you take time to include them. Older children can be more involved in the making of lunch since we are all more prone to eat something we have helped make. In addition ask your child if they would like a special lunch box or bag. Lunch will be a lot more appetizing (and therefore more likely to be eaten) if it comes in something the child is really drawn to.
•Think small foods. This is especially good if you are trying to please a small child. Younger elementary school age children can be overwhelmed by large foods and lots of it. Instead of swamping your child with massive amounts of food, try buying the small, individual bags of baby carrots, mini rice cakes and bite size bagel chips. When they do not feel their food is overtaking them your child will be much more likely to try these smaller versions of nutritious foods.
•Pack nutrients in their beverage. Many parents complain that their child refuses to drink milk. With today’s calcium fortified juices there is a suitable substitution. While some children may still balk at drinking juice they won’t refuse a “juice popsicle”. Try freezing boxes of juice and use the juice as both a cooler for their lunches and their lunch drink. Kids love the semi-frozen icy consistency of the partially defrosted juices.
•Think outside the sandwich box. While typically kids do prefer more routine in their lunches many do not want a sandwich everyday. Kids tend to be dippers and many would love salsa, hummus or even bean dip to dunk their chips, rice cakes or even carrots into. The biggest benefit of this is that if you make the right choices you may be providing them with more nutrition than a typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
•Try making your own snack mix. Many children have very small appetites or are simply too picky to eat much lunch. While the picky or non-eater may pass up a traditional brown bag lunch few of them will resist the urge to try some home-made snack mix. Commercial snack mixes tend to be loaded with salt and sugar but by mixing raisins, nuts, cereal (and whatever else your child will like) at home you can come up with a highly nutritious snack your child will have to try.
•Control the treats from home. Resist the urge to include a large treat in your child’s lunch. The reason is obvious-with you not there the cookie, cupcake or candy bar may be all that gets eaten. Save the large treats for when your child is home and you can control when it get eaten. If you must include sweets try putting in only a couple of bite size candies or small cookies for dessert thereby making your hungry child eat a few other things as well. For that really picky eater (or non-eater) offer a reward at home if their school lunch gets eaten.