Packing a school lunch has become less a matter of saving money or satisfying a finicky eater and more a matter of protecting your child’s health. In the morning rush, it’s easy to give in to the whining for chips instead of carrots. What you need to do is empower your children so they choose those carrots–maybe not instead of chips, but at least with the chips. Suzanne Henson, assistant professor and director of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at The University of Alabama, offers these tips on how to pack school lunches that are loaded in flavor and nutritional value that your children will really want to eat.
Nine tips on how to pack a healthy school lunch:
1. As it is age appropriate, let children clean, peel or cut up fruits and vegetables. If they feel invested in their lunch, they’re more likely to eat it.
2. Let children select the dinner vegetable and then pack leftovers into their own lunchbox.
3. Watch for foods that can pose a choking hazard for younger children. Be sure to cut food into small bites.
4. Don’t force children to eat foods they don’t like. This will help prevent mealtimes and food choices from becoming a battleground.
5. Substitute healthier ingredients for those less healthful ones your child enjoys.
6. Go for color! Colorful fruits and vegetables are nutrition powerhouses because they’re loaded with good-for-you vitamins and minerals.
7. If you have a child with a food intolerance or sensitivity, always check the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed on a food label in descending order by weight. Reading the ingredient list also helps us to understand what we are eating.
8. Take children grocery shopping when both you and they are not hungry. Let them choose food for their school lunch. If you eat before you shop, you’re less likely to fill the cart with unplanned purchases.
9. Be aware of how companies market food to children. For example, something as simple as the foods children see from their eye level in a grocery cart to Web-based games featuring popular characters off the cereal box can impact your child’s stated preferences.