If your child is a picky eater, enlist his or her help. Invite your child to pick one food from each of the four main food groups: one fruit, one vegetable, one protein-rich food, and one starchy or complex carbohydrate-rich food. Add a healthy “drink pick” and, for a special treat, a “fun pick.”
Here are six simple ways to incorporate these “picks” into your child’s lunch sack:
Place a bowl full of fruit on your kitchen counter and let your child choose which one he or she will add to tomorrow’s lunch sack.
Ask your child which veggies she likes, or better yet, have her choose some of her favorites while at the grocery store. Kids prefer veggies (and fruit) cut into smaller pieces because they look less intimidating. Consider packing colorful, bite-sized vegetables with a small container of hummus, ranch dressing, or other low-fat dip, and your child is sure to start munching more.
There are so many protein-rich food choices to choose from. Some of our favorites include tuna, peanut butter, low-fat string cheese, yogurt, and beans and lentils. Help your child find his favorites.
Complex carbohydrate-rich pick
The sandwich (or at least the bread it contains) is probably the quintessential packed-lunch complex carbohydrate–rich pick. Other examples of complex carbohydrate-rich picks include pasta or even cereal, a tortilla wrap, or veggie or bean soup.
Milk can often be purchased at school, while a fruit spritzer can be made at home (three parts juice to one part sparkling water) and toted to school in a thermos. Fruit drinks, however, are discouraged since they are nothing more than refined sugar.
Lunch is so much sweeter when your child opens his or her lunch box to find a fun surprise. Consider adding a love note, poem, joke, riddle, drawing, or brainteaser. Sports clips and comics are also a great addition to encourage reading in the younger age groups.
Consider planning ahead—grocery shop, cut veggies and fruit, have a variety of sliced luncheon meats and/or cheeses on hand, keep an extra loaf of bread in the freezer for emergencies, collect a stash of fun riddles and jokes from books or online sources. You get the idea. A little pre-planning will pay huge dividends (in the form of a healthy lunch that your child will eat), especially on those hectic mornings when you’re dashing to get out the door.
Kathleen & Lorna
Co-authors of Eating for A’s
Lorna Williams, MPH, RD, and Kathleen Dunn, MPH, RD, are registered dietitians who have been collaborating on health and nutrition projects for over 20 years. Together, they launched EatingFor.com, a fun and educational website focusing on child and teen nutrition, and co-authored Eating for A’s: A month-by-month nutrition and lifestyle guide to help raise smarter kids.