Are you faced with the same old dilemma of what to pack in your child’s lunch?
Do you find yourself torn between providing a healthy lunch and giving your child what he or she will actually eat? You’re not alone.
Each school year, parents and caregivers play a sort of lunch tug-of-war with their children. Put in a bunch of raw veggies (Healthy? Yes. Popular? No!) And then the veggies get thrown out or brought home. When kids plead for sweet snack cakes it often is easier to give in and toss a couple into the lunch box rather than thinking up a healthier treat that they will eat. As care providers, we know healthy is best. As people, we relate to kids’ desires for more “fun” food.
It’s well known that kids’ eating habits affect their learning. Health care professionals also feel that the eating habits children develop in their younger years will play a part in establishing their eating habits as adults. Of course we want to provide a lunch that will be nutritious, but also one that will get eaten. Even the School Lunch Program now is mandated to provide meals that include less fat, less sodium, more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains.
A healthful lunch should provide one-fourth to one-third of a child’s caloric needs, with plenty of complex carbohydrates (whole grain bread, fruits and vegetables), some quality protein (lean meats, eggs, peanut butter, beans) for staying power and a little fat (low-fat mayo, light cream cheese).
Remember to let your children help – they’re more likely to eat it if they had a hand in packing it. And keep trying different ideas. If something doesn’t work, move on to something else.