Banishing Lunch-Box Boredom
By: Jodie Shield, RD
The first day of school is around the corner. I’m not sure who is more excited the kids or us moms? While I love the lazy days of summer, there’s something comforting about the school day routine, which for many families includes packing a lunch. While it’s important to send your child to school with a nutritious lunch, all of your good intentions and efforts will have been in vain if your child doesn’t eat it. To ensure that your child’s lunch makes it into his or her stomach (and not someone else’s), check out the following strategies from my book Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens. And if you need a back up plan, there’s always school the school lunch. Last year the school lunch program got a healthy make over.
Top Ten Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Their Lunch
- Sit down once a week and plan lunches together. Then encourage your child to pack his own lunch. If kids have a vested interest in their lunch, they’re more likely to eat it.
- Let them play before they eat. Studies have found that grade-schoolers will eat more and waste less if they have recess before lunch. Talk with your principal or school board to see if this is a possibility for your child’s school.
- Celebrate special days. Plan lunch menus around a special event. For example, pack an all-red lunch in honor of Valentines’ Day, or include a DIY fortune cookie to celebrate Chinese New Year. For a decorative touch toss a red-and-white checked napkin into your child’s lunch box to create a picnic-like atmosphere.
- Try new food products. Send exotic fruits like kiwi or carambola (star fruit). Or go ahead and buy that new food your child saw advertised on television. Even if it’s not a nutritional winner, remember that all foods have their place in a healthy diet, when eaten in moderation.
- Slip them a note. A simple note saying, “I think you’re great!” written on a sheet of paper or a banana peel, or a special poem in your child’s lunch box can help make his day.
- Make your own happy meals. Include a sticker, joke, or small toy in your child’s lunch. This is always a real hit with younger grade-schoolers.
- Invest in “cool” lunch equipment. An insulated lunch bag and a thermos will enable your child to take a wider variety of foods for lunch, such as chilled pasta salad or hot Turkey Tortilla soup.
- Send favorite foods. If your child loves certain foods, such as apples, pretzels, or low-fat yogurt, go ahead and pack them. If she prefers leftover chicken legs, cold pizza, or single-serve boxes of cereal to a sandwich, send those to school, too.
- Give them a treat. Occasionally include items like cookies, chips, and bite-size candy bars. But be sure to pack only a small amount, so that your child doesn’t fill up on the treats and skip the rest of his lunch.
- Pack extras to share with friends. If you’re trying to get your child to eat something new, like celery stuffed with peanut butter, take advantage of the power of peer pressure and pack a few extra items for the other kids to taste.