In the past two weeks we’ve gone over how I pack lunch as a busy college student, some dietitian-recommended options, and what to bring for those long work days at the office. But what about kids at school? Thanks to Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, nutrition in schools has improved significantly. Still, many parents complain of their kids coming home from school hungry, having refused to eat lunch at school because it “didn’t taste good” or “looked yucky”. How can you avoid this issue and ensure that your kids are eating a tasty, nutritious lunch that gives them energy for class and schoolwork? Pack them a lunch full of their favorite healthy foods!
Of course, I am not the most knowledgeable when it comes to successful packing strategies for kids, which is why I have done some research and linked a few of my favorite websites and Instagram influencers throughout this post that give credible, experienced advice on how they pack fun, healthy snacks and meals for their own children. Here are a few tips and tricks I have gleaned from them:
*Pack in color- your kids will be more inclined to eat their food if it’s full of fun, inviting colors. This is easy to do with fresh fruits and veggies like strawberries, grapes, bell peppers, carrots, and so much more!
*Cut it up- especially if you are packing for young children between the ages of 3-6, it can be a lot less intimidating to have sandwiches cut in quarters, apples in thin slices, etc. This allows them to choose how much they want to eat without worrying about having to finish the whole thing.
*Try new foods- the same lunch everyday can get boring, mix it up! Simone, a mom of four who runs the Instagram account @zaynesplate, suggests that you introduce your child to fresh, exciting foods often so they don’t get tired of the same things day after day.
*Make it pretty-when introducing new foods (or trying to convince them to eat something you’ve been packing for weeks), find fun methods to make it look more appealing. Jennifer Anderson, a registered dietitian who runs the Instagram account @kids.eat.in.color suggests using tiny cookie cutters to cut food into shapes like flowers and animals to make lunchtime more fun and exciting.
*Allow input- according to eatright.org, simply allowing your child to give feedback on what they would enjoy can make the difference between them refusing to eat and an empty lunchbox.
*Don’t freak out when your kids still don’t eat their lunch- Give them time to adjust! Eventually they will realize that what you have packed for them is their lunch option, and they will slowly begin to enjoy these foods and look forward to home-packed lunches instead of the mystery meals served in the cafeteria.
Lastly, I have compiled a list of kid-friendly foods that are sure to leave your kids smiling when they open their lunchbox!
-Trail mix with a variety of nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate chips
-Mini bell peppers
-Turkey and cheese rollups with hummus
-Peanut butter and jelly on whole-grain bread
Hopefully these lunchbox tips and tricks have helped you establish the importance of packing balanced lunches and learn what that can look like for everyone in your family!
-Ashley Voeller is a college student, future dietitian, dancer and blogger