Here’s the dilemma: You want your child to eat a healthy diet, but you know she is inclined to eat only the things she likes.
That’s the case with lunches at school, and sending your child off with a sack full of healthy foods for lunch doesn’t mean she won’t throw it away or traded for a sugary treat or greasy snack. To motivate your child to eat a healthy lunch, she has to like what you pack and that means you need to get a little creative.
Give Her Novel Ways to Eat Familiar Foods
There is something about “squooshy” things that seems to be inherently funny and entertaining for kids, so try packing yogurt, applesauce, almond butter, or peanut butter in squeezable packets. Make sure your child knows how to open them, or pre-open the food item and place it in a zip-lock bag.
If you pack sliced apples to go with the nut butter, make sure to dip the sliced apples in orange juice to ward off unappetizing brown discoloration. Yogurt pre-packaged with a separate topping (stick with granola or chopped nuts) can also encourage active engagement at lunchtime — kids will enjoy sprinkling them in and stirring it up; don’t forget the plastic spoon!
Finger foods, sized for little hands, are also a fun way to eat. Peanut butter or ranch dip pre-packaged with carrot sticks has become a standby. Why not try a newer product, advertised as a quick, post-workout protein hit for adults, that conveniently packages perfect child-sized portions of ham, cheese and almonds together.
Pizza is a perennial kid favorite; cut left-over slices into strips and roll them into pinwheels (secure with a dap of cream cheese). You can make a “sweet pizza” by cutting flatbread into triangles, spreading them with peanut butter and jelly then topping with sliced banana “pepperonis.” Try “pizza-on-a-stick” by skewering small pieces of flatbread, chunks of mozzarella, and pepperoni slices. You can add cherry tomatoes as well if your child likes them. Pair the skewers with a small container of spaghetti sauce for dipping.
Disguise the Good Stuff
Sometimes the best way to get healthy ingredients into little tummies is to hide them in other yummy stuff. This can mean baking muffins or banana bread with carrots or zucchini grated into the batter or creating deliciously sweet juice blends, like carrot-apple, that pack a healthy punch. There are also store-bought juices available that taste like your kids’ favorites, but contain a nutritious dose of vegetables.
If your child is more of a salty snack type, make a batch of oven-baked “fries” using regular or sweet potatoes — spray the cut potatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with a moderate amount of salt, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Then try not to eat them all before they make it into the lunch box!
Wraps, as opposed to traditional two-slice sandwiches, can also hide a multitude of virtues. Slip in several spinach leaves along with the ham and cheese, or try a PB&J wrap with a handful of raisins, a sprinkling of chia seeds, or a teaspoon or two of flax meal.
Draw Her a Picture
Cutting sandwich bread into interesting shapes (like stars or hearts) can stimulate your little one’s interest in lunch. Goldfish-shaped bread is even available commercially.
Your child has probably been familiar with bear-shaped grahams and goldfish-shaped crackers since she was a toddler. Renew her interest by preparing an open-faced sandwich spread diagonally with peanut butter on one half and jelly on the other. Then place several bears in the peanut butter and give the bears fishing rods made of pretzel sticks. Add celery “strings” long enough to reach several fish “swimming” in the jelly. Use plastic containers designed for sandwiches, available at most markets, to protect your work of food art.
Finally, any kid’s appetite — and attitude — is improved by being reminded she is loved. On plastic bags used to pack sandwiches, use a marker to draw a heart, smiley face, or for kids who can read, a simple message like “You’re my hero!”
Barrett, T. (2013, August 26). 25 Quick & Easy School Lunches to Pack for Your Kids Slideshow - Bon Appetit. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from bonappetit.com
Ehman, M. (2012, August 9). Easy, Healthy School Lunches. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from lifeyourway.net
Goldfarb, A. (n.d.). 20 Creative Ideas for Healthy School Lunches. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from thescramble.com