Back to the Lunchroom: Nine Steps to Healthy, Happy Kids
It’s that time of the year again. Time to choose new lunch boxes and get ready for the big day. While your kids may be more interested in what’s on the outside of their lunch boxes, what’s more important is what they’ll find when they open them at lunchtime.
The best time to implement any new ideas and guidelines on what goes in your kids’ lunch boxes is now—at the beginning of the school year. While some of these ideas may seem to create more work for you, in the long run, a few extra minutes of work will create a lifetime of healthy eating habits for your family.
Here are some tips on how and what to pack inside lunch boxes to make both you and your kids happy!
- Get your kids involved. This will prove to be the most important point. If your kids don’t feel any sense of control or choice over what they’re eating, then you might as well pack it in now!
- Be in charge. While this may seem contrary to what I just said, it doesn’t have to. As important as giving your kids choices is, you still need to be the captain of the ship. Just because your kids get choices, those choices need to be set up by you in advance.
- Offer choices within the set guidelines. Allow your kids a choice between two different items in each category every day. Whether they will choose from a category is not an option. Every day: one fruit, one vegetable, and one protein. For protein, my kids love cheese and lunch meat, or leftovers from dinner, or hard-boiled eggs. For fruits and veggies, you’ve got a built in learning opportunity for young ones: colors! It’s that simple. And it’s healthy. I fall into the fortunate crowd because my children’s school has set up these mandatory categories with no snack foods or sweets allowed, so they, and I, have no choice.
- Convince your children. What do you do if your school has no set policy? Explain to your kids how important healthy eating is and that eating the right foods will help them to succeed at school. No more afternoon sugar slump!
- But all my friends are doing it! When your child comes home whimpering because their friends are eating gummies and cookies, what do you say? This is how we’re doing it this year. We’ll try it out and see if we don’t feel better! (Key word here is “we”; it’s great if you can model healthy eating habits for your children.)
- Take your kids shopping. Let your kids come with you grocery shopping so that they can help you choose items. Previously stubborn-minded kids can have a change-of-mind when they see all the interesting and exotic fruits and vegetables available.
- Do research. Encourage your children to research why there are new school lunch rules in effect. What a great opportunity to not only teach research skills, but also how to take control of their own health. For older kids, set them on the task of being detectives—what is lurking inside those snack foods? If we can’t pronounce it—that’s a sign of trouble!
- Aim for a garbage-free lunch. Instead of using and tossing plastic bags and saran wrap, invest in some well-sealing food storage containers and use these for lunch. Instead of buying snack-sized plastic containers of apple sauce, buy a full-sized glass jar. You’ll save money and the environment! See our link on green lunchbox suggestions.
- Be flexible. As all suggestions, decide what you need to alter to make this work for you. Even implementing a few of these suggestions will go far in creating happier, healthier children!