Zach’s mom sent him to school with lunch money for a treat: a hot lunch at school. She stopped in the lunchroom to see what he purchased and then snapped the picture to the right.
Although, the school offers a fruit and salad bar (visible behind Zach) his choice for lunch was a white tortilla with cheese and a sugar cookie. Not the most nutritious lunch!
What’s a mom to do? This is a common question. In fact, Kit, Zach’s mom, asked it once again. She has sat with her kids through school lunches and she says the food offered is “disgusting: green hot dogs, half-frozen chicken nuggets, and brown bananas.”
Zach is caught with a poor lunch choice!
The day Kit dropped in on Zach, she observed, “Not one child helped themselves to anything from the fruit and salad bar. I saw a few kids that day not eat ONE bite.” As Kit discovered, despite her best efforts, kids will invariably choose the least nutritious items at school. Or maybe not even eat one bite of food!
We do our best to make wholesome, nutritious meals at home. When a child is away from you, he probably won’t make the most healthful food choices. Control what you can (the food in your home) and then make it a rare treat for your child to chose what to eat at school. As Kit realized, even when there are nutritious choices, children will often chose to eat the least nutritious items on the menu.
Kid-Friendly Lunch Ideas
If you have a picky eater, then school lunches becomes even more of a challenge. You’ll have to address the issue of picky eating first with the Baby Bite steps. If your child won’t eat an item at home, don’t think for a minute, he’ll eat it at school. Lunchbox items should be nutritious foods you know your child will eat. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and money.
Variety is important. Try something different than the traditional PB&J sandwich. For example, make an almond butter and banana sandwich cut into a fun shape with a cookie cutter. Or draw a funny face on a hard-boiled egg.
Plan for left-overs: A meatball sandwich with sauce or meatloaf on a whole-grain roll. Get creative with egg, chicken, and tuna salad sandwiches on whole-grain bread, add sprouts for texture and extra nutrition. Healthy snacks can become yummy lunches. When packing lunches, it’s a good idea to include a frozen ice pack to prevent bacteria from multiplying.
Here are a dozen alternatives to the PB&J sandwich, just to whet your appetite. (Click on the green bolded items for the recipe):
>Hard-boiled egg and whole-grain muffin. For the younger child, practice cracking and peeling eggs at home. (If you bathe the just-boiled eggs in ice water, they will easily peel.)
>Tuna in a 3 ounce can and a small plastic container with Italian dressing. Show him at home how to take the tuna out of the small can and mix it in the container with the dressing. You may have to practice opening a pull-top can, using the plastic fork as leverage.
>Veggie sticks and a dip
>Brown rice salad with bite-sized chicken pieces
>Cold slice of pizza (My dad always made his own pizza and we would take a slice to school the next day.)
>Small cheese ball with whole-grain crackers (Make sure the crackers are trans fat and Interesterified fat free.)
>Chicken wings or a drumstick
>3-bean salad (if you purchase this ready-made, be sure sugar isn’t listed in the ingredients)
>Any green salad; pack dressing separately
>Sliced apples and peanut or almond butter. Send the nut butter in a separate container for dipping. Add whole-grain crackers or a whole-grain muffin.
>3-grain salad made with barley, brown rice, and corn and tossed with a vinegar and olive oil dressing.
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For a synopsis of Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater, Click Here.