With school soon to be back in session, the thought of healthy and nutritious lunch that your child will actually eat can be daunting, especially for those who have picky eaters. Children’s lunches should provide adequate amounts of calories and nutrients to keep a child well-nourished throughout the entire school day. While keeping nutrition and foods that your child will actually eat in mind, may seem like an impossible task, I’m here to tell you it is not.
If you involve your child in the food selection for their lunches, you are more apt to succeed in packing something they will eat! Have them help prepare their own lunches and pack them.
At school your child has more control over what they will and will not eat during lunch. They can choose to eat the green beans or throw them out. They can also choose to eat the apple over the ice cream sandwich. So packing a meal could be a more rewarding choice when it comes to your child’s health and nutrition.
Most kids have the choice of packing lunch or eating what is served in the cafeteria. Children can get a healthy lunch either way, but that is not always the case. Some meals and foods served in the cafeteria are healthier than others. That doesn’t mean that your child should not eat what is served in the cafeteria, it just means that you may want to take a closer look at the menu. Be sure that the meal is healthy and is something your child will eat. If the menu does not meet those criteria, pack a meal for that day.
On the other hand, a packed lunch isn’t necessarily healthier if you pack it with chocolate cake and potato chips! A packed meal, if done right, does have a clear advantage. Foods that your child likes can be packed. Offer them choices and include them in the preparation process.
When packing a lunch choose fruits and vegetables. They offer lots of nutrition and are packed with vitamins and fiber. Try to fit one to two servings in at lunch. You should also know the facts about fat. Kids need some fat in their diet to stay healthy, and also help them feel full, but should be used in moderation. Grains are also necessary, but not all grains are created equal. Remember that whole grains are healthier than refined grains.
Drinks are important when packing lunches as well. Milk has been a favorite lunchtime drink for a long time, but if your child does not like milk, pack them a bottle of water, but avoid juice drinks and soda.
Balanced meals are another important factor to consider when preparing a lunch. It should include a mix of food groups: some grains, some fruits, some vegetable, some meat or protein foods, and some dairy foods such as mile and cheese. If there are not a variety of foods, it is probably not balanced. Also, steer clear of packaged snacks such as chips and candy. They are okay every once in a while, but should not be part of the lunch menu.
Lastly, mix it up! If you pack the same lunch every day, your child could become bored with that meal and not eat, even if it is their favorite food. Change up the routine! Eating lots of different kinds of food gives the body a variety of nutrients.