We know not every kid fits one mold, so why feel chained to one method. The truth is getting your kids to eat the healthy lunches you pack can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be a struggle. You can even get them to help you.
Some kids enjoy textures, colors and combos that say “pizazz” others may prefer food items more bland and/or separate. Get to know your child’s likes and tailor your plan to meet his/her needs. That doesn’t mean skip the veggies and offer only pasta.
What it means is this:
You can serve a meal in many different ways. If your child prefers pizza – then fix up a pizza that’s nutrient-dense (and tasty, too). You can use many of the same combos in various ways. For older kids, chicken on a skewer/veggie kabob may be one option. For younger kids you might serve the chicken in chunks with a hummus dip and raw veggies on the side for dipping. And it may help to get your child involved.
Here’s one of my very own little chefs, Ailish:
Keep it simple:
FOCUS ON: Protein, Dairy, Fruit, Vegetable (Why didn’t I include whole grains? Read below.)
Discover your child’s preferences in “packaging”. He/she may be one or more of these (and preferences do generally change a bit with age):
- The little dipper – Chicken “nuggets” , hummus, carrots & cucumber or zucchini, string cheese
- The high roller (turkey rolls, etc) turkey roll with turkey, cheese, veggie choice (kale chips) a side of fresh chopped fruit or berries
- The earl of sandwich – PB& J, chicken or turkey & cheese, serve with apple slices and seaweed snacks (can use traditional sliced whole grain bread, leftover waffles or pancakes or whole grain eggo’s)
- The subway hound – roll with sliced lunch meat, hummus, lettuce, tom serve with baby carrots, string cheese
- The pizza maven – fresh fruit pizzas serve with extra side of yogurt and cucumber slices.
But feel free to experiment and mix it up a bit. Your child’s preferences do change in time and he/she may be ready for a change-up at some point.
Don’t feel you have to pack everything in. Don’t overwhelm. As long as you a food item: one of each category PVFV. Many lunch containers keep things within reasonable portions. Remember you can always serve up a healthy snack to get in more healthy nutrients.
Why didn’t I mention “whole grains*”:
If your child is like most, he/she will lean toward the pastas, rice, breads – all of which can contain healthy/heart-y whole grains. So you don’t have to worry about encouraging this Food Group.
*Note: It is up to you to find the “whole grain” items that provide the most nutrition. For example wheat bread and brown rice over white, because the more it is processed (i.e. bran removed from kernel in polished white rice), the less fiber and nutrient value your food has. Tip: Look for 3g per serving!
Stay tuned for MORE tips of encouraging your child to eat the healthy lunch you’ve prepared.