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List: Posted: 09/12/11
Eating a well-balanced school lunch will ensure that your child is operating at their best throughout the day, whether at recess or in the classroom, and will help prepare their appetite for a full dinner at home. Packing a nutritional, yet child-friendly, lunch can be tricky, but it can be simple if you follow a few simple steps.
Parents usually know when they have a picky eater on their hands, and will often overpack the quantity and selections of food to ensure that at least some of the food gets eaten. This actually has an opposite effect, because kids are likely to nibble on the finger-foods from the buffet in front of them (sweet, salty and fun items first), and ignore bigger items, like healthy sandwiches and whole fruits and veggies.
It's best to pack a child's lunch sparingly to help encourage proper nutrition. Trust us, if your child gets hungry enough, they will eat that brown-bread sandwich.
Is Your Child's Lunch User-Friendly?
Although children's food and drink packages have made leaps and bounds in recent years (it used to take a hammer and nail to open a Capri Sun), some packages are still a bit tricky for smaller hands, such as plastic-sealed fruit cups, vacuum-sealed roll-ups, and other instant-pack items. These foods usually require a teacher or other supervisor to assist, and with a full classroom of kids waving their containers in the air, your child is likely not to try too hard to open her packet of trail mix if there are more easily obtainable items packed.
It's best to pack a child's lunch with these items pre-opened and placed in easy Ziploc bags or containers. Also, make sure to include the right utensils (a spoon for pudding cups, etc.), and lots of napkins.
Always Consider Nutritional Value
Some great choices to pack for a child's lunch include sandwiches, such as lean turkey and low fat cheese, or organic peanut butter and low-sugar jam on whole grain bread. Crunchy sides, like baby peeled carrots, low-salt pretzels and apple slices are also good. The main part of the lunch should be based on carbohydrates and protein. If you're not sure what your child may like, take him or her to the supermarket and ask which items look good.
Even mac and cheese with a piece of chicken from last night's dinner, or some leftover pizza with veggies, will do. Just make sure your child enjoyed the food the first time around, and they should enjoy it for lunch the next day.
Toss in Something Sweet
Kids are going to want to snack on something sweet after lunch, there is no getting around it. But instead of throwing in candy or high-sugar snacks, try natural fruit roll-ups, dried fruit (strawberries or banana chips), or a low fat pudding cup. Kids normally don't like yoghurt as it tastes sour to them, but let your child try it every once in the while to develop their tastes.
Make Sure to Hydrate
Always be sure to include a drink in your child's lunch box. Ideally, this would be water or flavored sparkling water, but if your child won't drink these (especially voluntarily), you can include a reduced sugar fruit drink, or a beverage made with 100% fruit juice.
Ask Your Child Directly
Although you want your child to eat a healthy lunch, in the end it really depends on what your child has an appetite for. Ask your child the night before you pack a lunch or in the morning (time permitting) what he or she feels like eating for the day. They might even surprise you and ask for healthy selections you weren't providing.
Also, even though your child has professed their love for string cheese or goldfish crackers in the past, if you notice that these items are remaining half-eaten in their lunch box, stop packing them. Children's taste buds can often change overnight.
Packing a nutritious lunch that will be eaten, and enjoyed by your child, is easy with the right steps.
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