What should a parent do when a child only wants to buy school lunch and it isn't healthy, or a child is bored with the lunches you pack from home? And really, does one meal a day make a difference? Yes. When kids get used to eating high fat food, this can form a long-term habit (fat does taste good). The time to set permanent healthy behavior is early and reinforcing during school is no exception.
Depending on the age of your child, have her help plan lunch or even prepare part of it. This can be done just once or twice a week to get your child involved.
Remember that children love to get out and play and sometimes will eat very little so they can have more time on the school playground. Packing a snack for early or late recess may be a good idea (peanuts and cashews are full of fiber and protein). Don't be upset with them if their lunch is only half consumed. She is just a social butterfly. Offer sliced peaches and plain yogurt when she gets home. Make a fruit smoothie with your son using frozen fruit, vanilla yogurt, and milk.
Talk to your child about the lunch program and help him choose a healthy option. Although it is quite convenient not to pack a lunch, try a bag lunch at least two times a week. For older kids this can help your budget as kids who can go off campus can spend a lot on lunch (of questionable nutritional value).
Healthy things to pack:
- Edamame (soybean) or sugar snap peas (good source of protein)
- Cube cheese and offer it on a toothpick
- Trail mix (nuts, dried cranberries stick pretzels)
- Sliced mango, kiwi, or apples (use orange juice to help prevent browning)
- Vanilla yogurt with raspberries and granola or nuts on top (place it in a small plastic container (use an ice pack to keep it cold)
- Use leftover chicken from dinner last night and make a sandwich vs. processed sandwich meat which is high in sodium (salt)
- Use a cookie cutter to shape sandwiches into hearts, flowers, etc (young kids love to eat fun-shaped sandwiches)
- Open faced bagel with cream cheese and a face (use raisin for the eyes, a cashew for the nose etc.)
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich – apples will work too.
- Fresh mozzarella cheese in a tortilla
- Use a thermos in the cold months and fill it up with soup or pasta with a little bit of chicken broth for added taste
- Cereal. Just make sure it is high in fiber (5 grams) and low in sugar (under 10 grams). Provide a container with a top and a spoon; your child can add the milk provided at school.
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