Nutrition-wise blog

Lessons learned from packing school lunches

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. August 28, 2013

It doesn't matter how healthy lunch is if your child doesn't eat it. This is a lesson I learned after my son confessed to tossing his carrots, more than once.

Getting children on board with healthy eating takes more than sending them to school with a healthy lunch. So how do you get them to eat the good for growing bodies stuff instead of dumping it in the trash? How can you help them get beyond ordering corndogs and chicken nuggets when they go through the lunch line?

Simple solution — ask. What would they like for lunch? Expect to hear candy, cookies or chips for an answer. Welcome it. This is a great chance to talk about making healthy choices and how treats fit into meal planning. You'll not only keep food out of the trash but you may also plant seeds to help your children make healthier choices, especially when they're not with you.

Here are some tips to help you get your children eating healthier lunches:

  • Check the menu. Review the school lunch menu. Are there alternatives to the featured entree? Can you choose an entree salad or another healthy option? Does your child like the fruits and vegetables offered? Check into what others might be available.
  • Don't dismiss familiar foods. The same old sandwich is not boring to a child. It is familiar. If you want to put a new spin on a favorite sandwich, keep the stuff in the middle the same but wrap it in a whole-wheat tortilla or flatbread. Or if you child is more adventuresome, try adding hummus or different vegetables for crunch.
  • Use the rule of two. Pack a fruit and a vegetable. If vegetables are not as popular, offer two fruits. Let your children choose. If they don't eat both at lunch, they have a snack.

What creative things are you or your child's school doing to encourage children to eat healthier foods? Please share your ideas.

To our children's health,

Katherine

Aug. 28, 2013