Winning School Lunches

Besting the Brown Bag

By Mimi Greenwood Knight

Packing school lunches can be a battle. You need to provide something quick but filling enough to sustain them until dinnertime. It should be healthy but enjoyable to eat. Instead of resorting to a daily PB&J, consider some new ideas.

Offer options

Give them healthy choices and let them pick what they want. For example, “Would you like carrot sticks or apple slices for your snack?” This way they feel they have control, but you’re guiding them toward healthy choices. Consider small portions of lunch meat, cheese, crackers, fruits, veggies, and nuts.

Make it appealing.

Arrange food nicely, using lots of color. Add a fun napkin or encouraging note. Consider a bento-style lunch with fun shapes and themes.

You choose what they eat. They choose how much.

Kids know when they’re full. But appetites can ebb and flow with growth rates, activity levels, and varying amounts of sleep. A good rule is that you choose the healthy food, but they can decide when they’ve had enough.

Get your kids involved.

Teach young kids where food comes from by growing some or visiting a farm. Let them help assemble lunches or have their say during grocery shopping. As kids get older, you can make lunch foods easily accessible and let them prepare their own school lunches.

Treats in moderation.

We all enjoy a treat after a meal. But help your kids understand they need to eat something that nourishes their body before they gratify their taste buds. Of course it will be the honor system when they’re at school. But it’s good practice for the time—which will arrive all too soon—when they’ll be making their own nutrition choices.

Communicate to your kids that eating healthy food is important and valued. Let them see you eating nutritious meals. But don’t turn lunchtime into a battle of the wills. That’s a fight nobody wins. Let healthy, winning lunches be something you work toward together, not something that causes division.

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