Everything takes time in today's "go-go-go" world. From getting your child to soccer practice and driving the carpool to keeping your house clean and packing lunches for school – parents often feel like they are always one step behind.
In response to our busy schedules, food manufacturers have clued in by developing food products that are fast, no fuss and pre-packaged with little to no preparation time. The upside to this is that parents can literally pluck one of these "lunchables," – breakfast bars or a box of cheesy fish-shaped crackers for example – off the grocery shelves and plop them into a lunchbox.
The downside to these processed foods is that they're typically filled with refined flours and sugars, trans fatty acids and food chemicals that are contributing to a rise in a myriad of pediatric healthcare epidemics such as obesity, allergies, attention deficit disorder and eczema.
Packing your child a healthy lunch he or she will eat likely feels more challenging than ever before. If the lunch you send to school does not appeal to your child, the risk of a "food trade" arises. In other words, if the foods you have packed your little one does not look as good to him as what his friends may have, he may "trade up" by swapping one or two of his food items.
In addition, if your child does engage in a minor food protest, the food you have packed may still be in his lunchbox when he comes home, or even worse, may be thrown in the garbage.
In order to combat this often frustrating situation, the key is to communicate with your child about their dietary likes and dislikes. Sending them off to school with a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and with enough healthy "treats," will ensure lunchbox success.
I can honestly tell you, as a mom and an aunt to five nephews, I have been witness to several food fights over the years between parent and child. What I know for sure is engaging in a food fight with your little one will never work. Although it is a tricky balancing act that combines feeding them nutritious foods while allowing them the occasional goody, I assure you, harmonious interactions on this subject will serve you and your child best.
Page 1 of 2 – Find out how to encourage your child to eat the healthy lunch you pack for them on page 2.
Start by implementing the following tips and you will immediately pump up the nutrition factor of your child's lunch in addition to increasing the odds of her eating what you have packed.
1. Make sure your child has a variety of foods to tempt her palate. Try to pack each food item in a re-usable container or baggie. Children like to discover and "open things up" when they eat their lunch.
2. In addition to a main course item such as a sandwich or soup, include a variety of healthy snack options (2-3) for your child to eat. Sliced peppers, mini carrots, apple slices, high quality yogurt, whole grain crackers and cheese and raisins are all wonderful options.
3. Visit the bulk food section of your supermarket and purchase a healthy trail mix for an additional healthy snack option. Nut free options are now available. Sprinkle a few chocolate Hershey kisses or chocolate chips in the mix for a fun surprise.
4. Make sandwiches for your child on a variety of whole grain breads such as honey and flax bread, multi-grain bread, kamut, spelt or rye bread. Be sure not to purchase whole wheat unless it is labelled 100%.
5. Children need water for optimal health and hydration. Pack mini water bottles in their lunch as their main source of liquid. If you like, you can add a small amount of 100% fruit juice to the water to sweeten it up. Avoid purchasing juices that are labelled punch, aid or cocktail. Stick to juices and drinking boxes that are made from 100 per cent real fruit juice.
In addition to the tips above, I recommend making a list with your child that outlines the "top 10 foods" she loves to get for lunch. By doing so and occasionally packing her favourite foods in a healthier form, she will feel like you are listening to her (so, instead of a peanut butter and jam sandwich on white bread, pack a sandwich with natural nut butter and jam on whole grain bread). When you see your child try a new healthy food such as a fruit or vegetable, ask them if you can add it to their ever-expanding top 10 list.
In a nutshell
In their younger years, children do not get much say on most of the decisions made. Although is it up to mom or dad to ensure they are packing healthy food items such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy soups and sandwiches, it is also important to make sure a child's little voice is heard. Keep in mind that children are also great mimickers and typically follow "monkey see, monkey do" behaviour. In other words, if you want healthy eating to become the norm in your household, start by making it a family affair. You will soon discover that healthy eating can be fun, fast and delicious!
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