As you know by now, all parents have a different idea of what is healthy food and what is not. For years, you have had the opportunity to hand select and monitor what your child eats for lunch. Now it is time to test their ability. It is only natural for your child's eyes to wander and notice, and be envious of, what the other kids are eating. Here are a few tips that may help your child's lunch be healthy, fun and get noticed by the other kids.
1.) The lunchbox: It is important to have the right gear and the lunchbox is an important asset. Consider letting your child pick out his own lunchbox or purchase one and let him decorate it with paint or markers. Make sure your child's name is on it with a permanent marker or paint. Most schools will not provide a refrigerator to store lunchboxes, so you should select an insulated one with a re-usable freezer pack to keep the lunch fresh. Or, instead of using a freezer pack, you can freeze a bottle of water, and add it to the lunch box. It will keep the lunch cold and fresh during morning classes and by lunch time it will have thawed and be ready to drink.
2.) More gear -- containers: Those gimmicky, salt-, fat- and sugar-filled "Lunchables" trays are very popular with kids. Not because they taste so good, but because they look so cool. There is no reason a homemade lunch needs to look dull and unappetizing. Buy colorful containers in different shapes in which to pack your child’s lunch. They are better than plastic bags and less wasteful, too. If your child is drawn to characters, buy some stickers and decorate the containers. Put your child's name on the containers, but it is inevitable that some containers may not make their way home.
Another option is to purchase inexpensive or "semi" disposable containers that will not disappoint you if they accidentally end up in the trash.
3.) Offer plenty of choices: Provide small servings and many choices -- variety is a key to healthy eating. Providing your child with plenty of variety is not hard or time consuming. Many lunch foods can be prepared, in advance, in large quantities. Each morning, simply fill up small containers with different foods. Quick lunchbox food suggestions include:
- Dried fruit
- Fresh fruit pieces or a piece of whole fruit
- Applesauce (no sugar added)
- Celery sticks filled with cream cheese and raisins, or white bean dip
- Sugar snap peas with Ranch dressing for dipping
- Yogurt or a smoothie
- Lunch meat roll-ups with cream cheese and an asparagus in the middle
- Hard boiled egg
- Cheese cubes or string cheese logs
- Peanut butter (or sunflower-seed butter) and apple slices or crackers
- White bean dip or hummus with carrots and mini pita breads
- Whole grain crackers or pretzels
- Trail mix made from cereal, nuts, and dried fruit