How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch Your Kids Will Actually Eat
August is here, and we all know what that means: the sun is setting on summer. Before we know it, the kids will be back in school and parents everywhere will find themselves in charge of carpools, class projects, and bagged lunches.
Many children complain about how school-provided meals taste, but it turns out they’re often healthier than what parents pack. How do we strike the balance between sending our kids with food they’ll actually eat but making sure it’s nutritious, too?
Here are some easy tips to make lunch a breeze this school year.
Make simple ingredient replacements
Eating healthy can be an overwhelming task, especially when it comes to picky children. Thankfully, it’s often as easy as making a few simple ingredient swaps.
This year, make a few quick switches. Trade processed white bread for whole-grain varieties, increase the number of fruits and vegetables your child eats by adding an extra serving into their soups or yogurt, and replace high-fat chips with baked versions or air-popped popcorn.
The number of small ways you can make a difference for your kid’s nutrition are endless — and they really do add up over time. Check out this extensive list for some more healthy substitutions.
Prepare healthy snacks in advance
A great way to have fun with your kids while also being productive? Make healthy snacks together! Instead of buying processed snack foods, take an afternoon once a week to try a new homemade recipe. You’ll enjoy the family time, and it’s a great chance to start teaching your kids about what goes into their food.
By setting time aside in advance, you’ll also ensure that healthy options are on hand if you find yourself running late in the morning. Instead of reaching for the potato chips, you’ll be able to grab a handful of whole-grain energy bites or yogurt-covered raisins. That’s what we call a win-win.
Get your child involved
Including your child in the lunch-making process has a number of benefits: not only can you get a taste for their preferences and start important conversations about healthy eating, you can also snag some help when it comes to getting everything prepared.
Start by chatting about what your kid’s favorite meals and snacks are. Brainstorm a list of foods that are reasonable to send in a bagged lunch (it’s a good idea to avoid any complex recipes that might require reheating) and let your child pick a few that sound appealing.
Once you have a list in mind, you can head to the grocery store together. When you get back, let them help perform age-appropriate tasks like bagging baby carrots or spooning vegetable dip into containers.
Allowing your child to be part of the process from the beginning will give them a feeling of ownership over their meals. They’ll be more likely to eat everything you send along if you let them help buy, make, and package it!
Play with your food
You have our permission — don’t be afraid to make eating fun! If your child resists healthier meal and snack options, take a few extra minutes and make those dishes more appetizing by cutting them into fun shapes or skewering them on a crafty kabob.
Cookie cutters work especially well for turning a dull whole-wheat sandwich into an exciting star or heart. You can also experiment with how you slice vegetables and fruit, using different items to create a fun animal (the classic “ants on a log” trick to get kids to eat celery really does work).
Over time, your child will adjust to the new tastes of their healthier diet, and in the long run they’ll thank you for setting them up for success. In the meantime, though, a little extra excitement should do the trick.
As parents ourselves, we know the start of the school year can be stressful. If you have any questions about how changes in your routine might affect your insurance policies this fall, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We’re here at Lindow to help.