So-- you've made it through the second week of school and are patting yourself on the back for a job well done--kids seemed to have eaten their lunches (at least the lunchbag comes back empty) and all is well. Only 60 more lunches to make until the Winter Holidays... but who's counting?
If you are already wondering how you can come up with healthy lunch ideas that your kids will actually eat, the following tips will help make sure your kids happily anticipate their lunch instead of tossing or trading it.
1. Get a kid's perspective. "Buy in" is not only necessary in the business world, it's also a big plus when getting kids to eat. Get your kid involved in the whole process--from making the grocery list to making choices on a daily basis. Do you want an apple or a fruit cup today? A wrap or a sandwich? Bring or buy? Kids have very little control over their day once they leave home--giving them a choice (but a choice you approve of) makes them feel more independent. There are also lots of teachable moments involved--your kid wants chips--explain the benefit of baked over fried... (FOR MORE TIPS SEE PART 2 OF THIS BLOG-PACKING A LUNCH--coming soon!)
2. Buy: When there is no time to pack a lunch, there are 2 options: buy or bring a pre-boxed lunch. While school lunches have gotten their share of brow-beating, it's not as bad as you think. School lunch does have to meet USDA nutritional guidelines, which admittedly are not as healthy as most dietitians would like, they do insure your child gets a balanced, nutritious lunch. Burgers and hot dogs on the menu--what about that? Here's what's not on the menu--hot dogs are reduced fat because they're made with turkey, beef is often a beef-soy mix--also to reduce the fat. There are also some teachable moments at the lunch line. Schools have the option of "offer" vs "serve". In our schools, it's "offer"--that means your kid needs to pick 4 things off the line. The good news, is again, if your kid picks it, he is more likely to eat it. The bad news is, he can walk away with the main entree, (which could be pizza), along with bread and corn. Yep it's definitely a starchy meal...here's where mom's or dad's influence comes in.
3. Pre-packaged meals. Lunch nirvana for kids and moms alike is often lunch in a box. Yes, I'm talking Lunchables. Over the years, Lunchables has decreased fat, sodium and calories—more than 20% . Now, some options include bottled water, fruit and bread made with whole grains. I see Lunchables as not an everyday thing, but a great option when all you have is 15 seconds to put lunch together. I also see some teachable moments for Lunchables. They are perfect portions for a kid--for overweight kids, they provide a moderate calorie, balanced lunch that has “cool” appeal.
4. Send a little love. (And I don't mean a candy bar!) Sending a little note in the lunchbag is a great way to let your child know you're thinking about him. A post-it note is perfect for this. Jot out a little poem, or just say I love you! You can help a Boys and Girls Club near you by making a promise to send a lunchnote! Go to lunchnotepromise.com and make the pledge and Lunchables will donate $1 to a Boys & Girls Club in your state. And there are lots of really cute notes to download too.
(Disclosure: I have a worked as a consultant for Lunchables for the last 5 years. Why? I believe they offer an acceptable lunch option for kids and they consistently strive to improve on the nutrient content of their products.)