We all know that children can be notoriously fussy eaters and there’s nothing more depressing than having their lunchbox come home almost as full as it was in the morning. So how can you get your children to eat more of their packed lunch? Of course, there are no magic solutions, but involving children in making decisions about their packed lunches will help them to feel more positive about them. These tips will show you how.
Help them to understand why healthy eating is important
Depending on the age of your child, helping them to understand why healthy is important can go a long way towards gaining their support. Explaining that they need a balance of different foods for different purposes, and that some foods are not healthy if eaten too often, will help them understand why their packed lunch can’t consist of jam sandwiches, a cake and sugary drink! Tell them how eating the right foods at lunchtime will help them to learn better by releasing energy slowly and avoiding a sugar high followed by the inevitable dip afterwards.
Involve them in menu planning
In my post about planning ahead I explained how making a menu can keep boredom at bay and this is never more important than when catering for children. Sit down and find out their favourite foods (and the ones they won’t eat!) and from there you can plan a healthy menu that will really appeal to them. Ask them to check whether each lunch has the right balance of foods. Some schools have restrictions on the items you can include in their packed lunches so make sure you take these into account when planning.
Let them help you cook
Children are far more likely to eat something they’ve made themselves and they also love to cook. So plan some time at the weekend when you can cook some lunchbox treats together; you can batch cook and use your freezer to store them and they’ll be ready whenever you need them.
Look for healthy alternatives
Finding healthy alternatives to less healthy foods is a great way to ensure children can enjoy their packed lunch without sacrificing on good food. Look for sugar-free cake recipes or low-fat cereal bar recipes which will satisfy a craving for sweetness without overloading on the white stuff. It’s worth browsing a few specialist cookbooks, such as those with recipes for diabetics, to get ideas. And once you’ve got the idea, you can adapt existing recipes by reducing the amount of sugar or using alternatives.
Try self-service selection
When my three youngsters all took packed lunches to school, we operated a ‘self-service’ approach to filling their lunchbox. I laid out necessary items such as bread, butter and fillings and they made their own – a bit messy at first but they soon got used to it! They chose their favourite additions (such as low-fat baked goods or portions of dried fruit), selected their fruit option and they were ready to go. This meant they were sure to eat everything in their lunchbox and also developed their independence. As they got older they didn’t need any help to prepare a balanced packed lunch quickly and easily.
Encouraging children to eat a healthy packed lunch shouldn’t be a battleground. By following these tips your should pave the way for ensuring your children understand the importance of a healthy lunch and are involved in creating their own. Leftovers will be a thing of the past!
Coming next: How to Make Irresistible Packed Lunches for Children
Image courtesy of Phil Shirley from Flickr Creative Commons