Most parents want to see their children eating a healthy, nutritious lunch every day. Given the taste buds of your average elementary school student, however, this can be a major challenge. To make matters worse, many schools dedicate only 20 minutes for children to eat lunch, making it even more important for your child’s meal to pack a nutritious punch. Here are some tips for making your child look forward to lunch every day!
We’ve also got a selection of low calorie recipe ideas here, which are not specifically for children but should still provide you with some useful ideas.
1: Presentation is important
It’s true: the way the food looks and smells is going to be as important as the way it tastes. One fun idea is to pack your child’s lunch bento-style. Bento boxes are cool, smooth compartmentalized boxes that let you separate food. Made from BPA-free plastics, bento boxes pack up easily and are no bigger than the average lunch bag.
2: Balance is everything
Pediatricians advise parents to follow the food pyramid when planning their child’s meals. On a daily basis, this means three to five servings of vegetables; two to four servings of fruits; two or three servings of dairy products as well as meat; and six to eleven servings of breads, cereals, rice, and pasta. As for fats, oils, and sweets, these are only to be eaten on special occasions.
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3: It’s never too late to promote healthy foods
Parents tend to forget that their children see them as models for how they should interpret the world around them. Logically thinking, if you consume sodas, sweets, and other unhealthy treats, how can you expect your child to do otherwise? By making it a goal for your entire family to enjoy eating healthy meals, you will influence your child’s eating habits for life. In turn, they may avoid many of the diseases that result from obesity, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
4: Know where your food comes from
By piquing your child’s interest in the food chain, it can help him or her understand the ways food is produced. Shockingly, it does not always come in a wrapper! Visiting a farm can appeal to a child’s natural curiosity about where food comes from. Another fun project can be to grow vegetables in a backyard garden or container.
5: Substitute liquids for the real thing
Your child will get more nutritional value from eating an apple than drinking apple juice. Therefore, instead of packing sugary drinks that have little nutritional value, opt for water. If they will not eat an apple, aim for apple sauce in a fun pouch. Likewise, seek out products that sneak in vegetables your child might otherwise never eat. One popular apple sauce actually contains pureed carrots in the ingredients! They taste delicious, and your child will never be the wiser.
6: “Water + Four” Menu
Planning lunches does not have to be a big time investment. Use a “Water + Four” formula, i.e., a thermos of water plus main dish and three sides. Aim for at least one of the sides to be fruit-based, while the others are vegetable-based.