Like most parents, I don’t enjoy packing lunches, mostly because there is a general disagreement between what I would like to pack for my daughter’s lunch and what she will eat.
Being a dietitian, I have a bit of an image I am trying to maintain. I would like my children to request whole grains, vegetables, fruit and various unprocessed lean protein sources like beans, legumes and fish. However, when I ask what she would like for her lunch, the answer is usually a butter sandwich, but not on brown bread. Goldfish crackers. Pepperoni. Candy. The nutritional highlight is a piece of fruit. When I suggest some protein I discover she’ll only eat eggs hot. She doesn’t like cheese. She’ll only eat yogurt if there is a ridiculous Disney character on the package. She goes to a nut-free school.
If I frame the question as a choice between A and B, she invariably comes up with option C. If I send what I want her to eat, the lunch comes back uneaten, and I hear she had to ask her teacher for food or another classmate. I feel like I can’t win. So what are some ideas for sending healthier lunches?
• Send leftovers from supper or soup in a thermos. This has the disadvantage that you can’t pack the lunch the night before, as the food has to be warmed in the morning and put in the thermos.
• If you are sending animal products like yogurt or cheese in your child’s lunch, consider using cooler or ice pack in the lunch to keep them tasting fresh.
• Know your child’s gateway foods: my daughter loves pickles, and I find if I add chopped pickle to tuna salad or egg salad or wraps, she will eat them. Without the pickle, she will not. Go figure.
• Most kids don’t mind eating the same thing every day. If you find a pretty healthy thing that they will eat, do not feel bad sending it all the time.
• If you struggle to find protein foods that they will eat, consider feeding them more protein at breakfast. Eggs, peanut butter, nuts and cheese can be part of a healthy breakfast.
• Use the 80/20 rule. If 80 per cent of the lunch is healthy, it is OK to add a treat that might make your child happier about their lunch. Examples include cookies, pudding cup, granola bar, chocolate milk, etc.