Its back to school time and lots of us moms are trying to figure out the best options for making healthy lunches for our kids without having them traded for snack cakes and cookies in the cafeteria. Here are a few ideas that might help make a healthy lunch more interesting for your little ones.
First, remember what its like being a kid. Remember what things were interesting. Without considering your child’s perspective, healthy lunches will likely be tossed or traded for something more interesting. Find new ways to present the ordinary things your child likes and see if you can find ways of sneaking healthy treats into their favorite foods. Substitute chocolate covered peanuts for chocolate covered raisins for desert or even yogurt raisins. Throw a few marshmallows into a fruit cup to make it something that is wanted not traded at lunchtime.
Vegetable sticks are a healthy snack, but rather uninteresting for the most part. Try jazzing them up by cutting interesting messages into them. Also include something like peanut butter, low-fat salad dressing, or low-fat cream cheese to add some flavor. Another thing that can be made are “ants on a log” by adding raisins on top of cream cheese or peanut butter on vegetable sticks. Similarly this can also be done with pretzel sticks.
Other options are home-made popcorn with an air popper so you can control the amount of salt and/or butter you put on it or rice cakes with cream cheese, peanut butter, and other seasonings and spices can make for an interesting twist to a normal healthy snack. One last option is getting a dehydrator and making tons of your own easily packable fruit and vegetable “chips” and putting your own seasoning on them. My sons love having these as quick snacks and they can easily be packed for school lunches as well.
With my kids a sandwich just isn’t interesting enough, so here are some other ideas that work for me for the main course.
A make-it-yourself chicken and tortilla wrap is a great way to keep your child interested. Put some tortilla wraps, baggies of grilled chicken strips, low-fat cheese, lettuce, and various other healthy toppings that your kid loves together so that they can make their own lunch. Also, a great option is mixing up things like egg, meat, vegetables and spices together for a tasty but healthy mix, and throwing that on a tortilla can also make it more interesting than just a normal meal. Other things I have seen work for parents of younger children is taking cookie cutters and making shapes out of healthy sandwiches to make them more interesting and adding food coloring in interesting ways to normal food to make it seem more appetizing.
Beyond the quick suggestions, figure out what foods your child likes most. Adding new tastes, spices and flavors can make even the most boring dishes interesting. Also while you’re doing all this to give your child healthy options, you can expand the flavors and textures that your child is willing to eat making dinner time easier and minimizing the presence of picky eaters. Be creative and think like a kid. Not every meal has to be a perfect balance of what us adults see as a meal, give your child some options. Taking them to the store to pick out what they want can be a helpful way to give them more options for healthy food. Even with my two year old son we present him with one or two healthy options that he can have for lunch, and he can choose which thing he wants. Work with your children and remember to have fun with it. If you’re just forcing seemingly boring health food on them, they’ll never learn to appreciate it, particularly when the modern cafeterias have so much junk food on their menus.