I find that it takes a lot of day-to-day energy to not only meet my kids’ basic needs, but also help them to create health habits for life. We’ve all heard we should pick and choose our battles. As I’ve written earlier this week and last week, we need to find a balance between comfort and nudging, whether it’s chores around the house or food on the table.
So when one of my daughters declared, in her best high-pitched whine, that she does not like sandwiches, I had to come up with new ideas that were both easy and nutritious. I asked her to name a few things she does like, and it gave us an oportunity to talk about how to build a healthy lunch. We came up with an ensemble that has become one of her favs: yogurt, veggies with hummus, apple slices, and popcorn. Yes, popcorn! You’ve got four food groups covered with this one.
Bottom line: a main course is not a requirement. What puts the fun in food for your child?
- Separatists: A bento box with separate containers and fun presentation for each item will appeal to her.
- Dippers: There is no other way a veggie would pass his lips! Pair the loved (a favorite dip?) with something new. Beyond carrots and celery, try mushrooms, sugar snap peas, snow peas, jicama, broccoli, or cauliflower. And for any fruit, yogurt makes a great dip!
- Budding Chefs: Pack things in separate containers so he can mix and build his own masterpiece. Pecans, raisins, and mini pretzels to make trail mix. Crackers, cheese, and sliced pears to make mini-wiches.
Leftovers are also often a hit with kids who don’t like sandwiches. I like to get extra mileage out of a well-received dinner by packing it for lunch the next day. Not everything will pack well, but here are a few tried and true options:
- Pasta! I’m not crazy about cold pasta, but many kids love it. Tortellini holds up very well. Pasta with chicken and mixed veggies also is a hit.
- Fish fillet, salmon cakes, chicken strips (or any cut up meat) packed into a pita or wrap.
- Soup packed in a thermos, especially as the days grow colder!
You are not alone with the lunch challenges this time of year. Remember the ABCs of back-to-school nutrition, including our ever improving school lunch programs that may be an option for you (see some great stories here). Make a plan, stick to it, and get back to the learning and playing that you and your children can enjoy together this time of year!