Lunchtime is an important part of the school day, and your child needs a good one to stay nourished and focused. Here are some great healthy lunch ideas they’ll actually eat!
How Do I Get My Child to Eat a Healthy Lunch?
Most parents know the drill. You slave away making a delicious, healthy lunch, only to have it return home untouched. Or maybe they’ll nibble away at the bread crust. Maybe.
Packing school lunch can be a fairly stressful experience! Parents are often afraid that their child won’t get enough nutrients, which will negatively impact their brain development. After all, the child is in school a large part of the day.
They might end up surrendering the lunch battle entirely, just so their child will eat something. Anything. Somedays, candy or other unhealthy snacks often end up in the school lunch box instead of hummus and carrots.
So how can you get your kid to eat a healthy lunch at school?
Let’s start with the lunch box itself. Presentation can play a large role and an appealing lunchbox encourages your child to eat. Plus, reusable lunch boxes are more eco-friendly than brown paper bags.
Many parents and children love using a bento box to keep lunch looking and tasting delicious. You can put something different in each compartment. You’ll be able to divide their lunch into small portions where different foods won’t touch each other. Children who tend to eat less may be extra proud when they have finished a container or portion of the meal.
If you have a large lunch box without dividers then you can store small boxes inside. For smaller children, fun-shaped food containers can go a long way.
The Right Foods for the Lunchbox
It’s not just the outside that matters–it’s what’s inside that counts! A healthy, balanced lunch usually has a colorful variety of foods. Let their eyes guide their culinary experience.
For some kids, mixing up the colors and textures might be more fun than having the same meal several days in a row. On the other hand, some children are creatures of habit, so they might prefer the same lunch every day. You know your child best, and will ultimately be able to make the best lunch choices for your child. Either way, it can be hard to stay creative. So here are some more kid-approved suggestions.
Including different foods in different colors ensures that all the necessary nutrients are present. Every lunch should contain good carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.
Pack whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for a good dose of carbs. Protein and healthy fats from meat, string cheese, eggs, yogurt, and nuts.
You can fill the small compartments of the lunch boxes with different snacks every day. This can be done the night before. Cuts fruit and vegetables into different shapes. Some easy options include apple slices (with cinnamon and lemon juice to spice it up), veggies, or even simple pasta salads.
Most kids love finger foods and kebab skewers with different vegetables or fruits make eating even more fun. You can also add sausage and cheese to the kebabs. If kebab style isn’t your thing, you can make meat and cheese roll-ups with a side of crackers.
There are endless easy ways to make lunches interesting. For example, adding sprinkles to the yogurt is a fun way to ensure your child eats their yogurt for a protein boost. You can also write little notes of encouragement to your child either on paper or even the napkin!
Lunch Ideas for Vegetarians
If your son or daughter is not enthusiastic about vegetables, try egg muffins. These are a great protein bomb if you don’t like meat or are vegetarian. Whisk eggs and pour them into muffin molds filled with various vegetables. After baking, you won’t see the vegetables.
Another great option is protein bites! They are super quick to make ahead of time and are sweet little treats for lunches.
Another suggestion: different salads, like quinoa or noodle salad, are a great addition to the lunchbox. Quinoa is an especially great superfood that’s recommended to vegetarians and vegans.
A Sandwich is Not Just a Sandwich
For many children, the same sandwich every day can be a little dull. So add variety here, too. Take different sauces and make different sandwiches. Why don’t you ask your kid what he wants? Every now and then peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are fine. But maybe they’d prefer ham and cheese instead? Embrace the variety!
In many stores, you can buy cute cutters for bread that waste little to no bread at all. The cookie cutters for Christmas cookies can work beautifully. Just keep in mind that you might have to eat the crust yourself!
Try different types of bread. Wraps and tacos offer a great variety. They have different consistencies. From soft to granular to crispy, you’ve got all your textures covered for different sensory experiences.
Here is one simple wrap recipe that will almost certainly be a favorite!
Turkey Hummus Wrap
- 1 Tortilla
- 1 tbsp Hummus
- 1 Carrot
- 1 Pickle
- Mustard (to taste)
- 1 Turkey slice
- 1 Roast beef slice
- Lettuce (optional)
- Use a knife to spread a thin layer of hummus all over one side of the tortilla. Then add desired amount of mustard.
- Place protein choices (turkey, roast beef) in center of tortilla.
- Slice one pickle and add to tortilla.
- Shred or slice carrot and add to tortilla. (Optional: Add lettuce.)
- Roll up tortilla, cut and enjoy!
Healthy Lunch Expectations versus Reality
We hope these suggestions inspire you to pack delicious healthy lunches your children will happily devour. But the reality is, some days your picky eater might not eat anything. Or maybe they’ll just eat the one cookie you packed as a special treat. Sometimes you might run out of steam and will just grab random things from your kitchen for lunch. And that’s okay.
The important thing is that your children have nutritious food choices so they’ll stay healthy and happy.
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