I’m sure that mothers everywhere sigh at the thought of returning to the daily tedium of packing a lunch a) that their child will eat and b) that also gives them reasonable nutrition. The two ideas are often at odds with each other. In my own classroom, I have seen every kind of lunch possible, from ones lovingly packed with goodness and variety, to lunches that told a very sad story of a child’s economic situation.
Here are a few ideas to spice up your child’s lunchtime routine:
- Don’t always expect your child to eat everything in their lunch. School lunch breaks are short and children, social creatures that they are, love to chat and visit during lunch. Making the contents of their lunch visually appealing and in moderate quantities will seem more manageable to a child. My son’s favourite lunch was what he called a “grazing lunch”. A divided container of treasures to snack on appealed to him. Cubes of cheese, meat, olives, a pickle, or chunks of fruit were all fun to nibble on.
- If your child likes sandwiches, fabulous! Try changing up the bread for a small bun, a tortilla, or even a mini croissant. Fill it with egg salad, tuna, or cream cheese with shredded carrot and cucumber. Another fave is a sandwich made with homemade banana bread filled with cream cheese. Yum!
- Kids love dip! Small pieces of cauliflower and cucumber with hummus or even ranch dressing is refreshing. Try strawberries, pineapple or apple slices with vanilla yogurt. (Tip: Apple slices will brown less with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. ) Cut up fruit is more likely to be eaten than a whole apple or orange that requires peeling. It needs a bit more prep time up front but is worth it – the fruit is more likely to be eaten instead of travelling back and forth to school in their back pack untouched!
- Hide the goodness! Try making mini muffins and adding finely shredded carrot or zucchini to your favourite recipe. Banana muffins have lots of nutrition and are fun to eat if sprinkled with miniature chocolate chips as a treat.
- Make it count. If you want your child to eat wisely at lunch, give them variety and healthy options. “ Fruit gummies” or rolled up “fruit “ snacks ( let’s call it what it is : candy), will probably always get eaten first and the sticky residue stays on their teeth all day. Tip: Read the labels on prepackaged snacks. Is sugar the first ingredient? Do you recognize the ingredients?) Whole foods and 100% fruit juices, milk or water will give them more nutrition and energy to think, learn and play all day!