Help your child eat a healthy lunch
When your child goes back to school you can't guarantee she will eat healthy food in her lunch every day, but there's a lot you can do to steer her in the right direction.
Do you feel like it's a never ending challenge to come up with healthy lunch ideas that will entice your children? Use these tips to pique your child's interest in eating a healthy lunch:
- Bring your child with you when you go grocery shopping so he can pick out foods he likes to eat. Read food labels together so he can see what makes one food better for him than another.
- Encourage your child to pack her own lunch. Help her pick healthy choices that are fun to eat, such as string cheese, fruit, carrot sticks, and pudding cups. If she packs it, she will be more likely to eat it.
- Keep a variety of foods on hand so you're not packing the same lunch every day.
- Thermoses help to add variety with hot and cold foods such as chili, soups or smoothies. A cold pack can help keep yogurt appetizing - and safe from bacteria.
- Encourage your child to choose 1 percent or 2 percent milk, even if it's chocolate. Milk is always a better choice than juice because most fruit drinks contain very little actual fruit.
- Vary bread offerings. Include sliced whole wheat, raisin, pita, dinner rolls, tortillas or bagels.
- Offer plenty of healthy snack food options such as fruit, cheese and crackers, hard boiled eggs, or peanut butter and crackers.
- Make mini pizzas: Use toasted English muffins or round crackers, spread with tomato sauce, shredded cheese and pepperoni slices.
- Try a sesame noodle dish or pasta with a favorite tomato or Alfredo sauce.
- Pita pocket sandwiches are easy to make and offer an alternative to the usual sliced bread versions. Try stuffing pockets with hummus and sliced vegetables or cream cheese, cucumbers and shredded carrot.
- Cut sandwiches into fun shapes. Use a knife to cut sandwiches into triangles or diamond shapes. Or for a variety of shapes, use cookie cutters.
- Provide different shaped pastas. Although macaroni is a perennial favorite, other shapes including snowmen, bunnies and letters are also available. Offer with mild sauces or as a salad with olive oil, cubed meat, and Parmesan cheese.
- It doesn't have to be a sandwich. Kids love dips. Try hummus or a cream cheese dip and veggies, or bean dip and toasted pita chips or bagel chips for a protein-filled addition.
- Make a roll-up. Try spreading cream cheese and dates and/or raisins on lavash bread and roll it up. Shredded carrots and cucumbers or additional veggies can also be used instead of raisins.
- Make fruit kabobs. Be sure to use fruits that aren't too messy and cut off sharp tips of wooden skewers before packing into lunches. Chunks of watermelon, pineapple and grapes are good choices.
Once you've packed your child off to school with a healthy lunch, how do you make sure he's not trading it for a friend's corn chips or just throwing the whole bag away? You probably can't. But don't despair. Dietitians say it's important to focus on what your child eats throughout an entire day, rather than just concentrating on lunch. If you plan a balanced breakfast and dinner, that gives you two meals and at least one snack to pack in a full day of nutrients.