The state of school lunch today is one of almost complete disarray. School districts across the country are turning their school cafeterias into mere delivery systems for pre-packaged and overly processed food for their students’ lunches. In many districts schools have given up school lunches altogether and allowed fast food outlets to lease a day each week giving the students questionable nutritious choices like burgers on Monday, tacos on Tuesday and pizza on Wednesday etc. all from the local fast food outlets. Older students with access to their own money are often skipping the cafeteria altogether and are simply purchasing lunch from the nearest vending machine. With all of these problems surrounding the simple process of feeding their child lunch, parents are left wondering what they can possibly due to help insure that their child will eat a healthy lunch. While turning to making their own lunches from home seems like the best option, parents then face the challenge of packing a lunch that is both healthy and something their child will eat. While it may seem daunting to satisfy your need to foster healthy eating for your child and your child’s sometimes picky eating habits, it can be done. Here are some tips on sending healthy lunches to school with your child-
•Plan ahead! The morning rush is not the time to try and put together a well-balanced and fun brown bag lunch. While you may feel overwhelmed with everything you already have on your schedule, making your child’s nutrition a priority will pay off in the long run. Waiting until you are trying to get out the door to pack a lunch may result in simply throwing in whatever food is at hand which may or may not be the healthiest choice.
•Involve your child in the process as early as the grocery store shopping. Shopping together for what your child will have in their lunch bag will make it even more enticing for them to eat if they feel they have a say. No one whether child or adult likes to be told what to eat day after day so let your child have a say in their lunch and you may find they are much more willing to eat the “healthy” food you pack for them.
•Make lunch fun! Put a note in your child’s lunch. The note can be an encouragement for an upcoming test, congratulations for doing well on a project, or simply “I Love You.” Buy some plain bags, and use stamps, markers and crayons to have your kids decorate their own lunch bags, or they can personalize their siblings’ lunch. By letting your kids choose a lunch box, insulated lunch bag or even a plain brown paper lunch bag they can express their style. Be advised though that surveys revealed that older kids (age 11 to 12) prefer brown bags, while younger kids (age 8 to 10) prefer lunch boxes. Snack-size plastic baggies also are a great tool to have on hand. This helps to teach kids about portion control and offer an easy way to stash kid-friendly snacks in knapsacks.
•Include their favorites from time to time. Pack your child’s favorite foods in their lunch every now and then. Whether it’s cold pizza, pasta or chips this helps keep them wanting to eat everything that offered. Just be sure to keep an eye on the portion size: All foods can fit into a healthy diet if eaten in moderation and in the right portion. This also helps kids from labeling certain foods as “forbidden” and wanting it even more.