I’m not a parent, but I find it a challenge to make my own lunch everyday so I can only imagine the challenges parents face coming up with healthy, easy lunches that their kids will actually eat.
I read an interesting article recently by Leslie Beck R.D. in the Globe and Mail and she suggested involving your children in the lunch-making process. Take them to the grocery store and ask them what they like. Give them 2 or 3 healthy options, and have them choose what they prefer. They will be more likely to eat what you prepare if it’s something they’ve chosen themselves.
I know what you’re thinking; if I actually gave my kids free reign to pick whatever they want for lunch it wouldn’t be a healthy choice. This is where parents play a really important role. The best way to get your kids to choose healthy options is to lead by example. If you eat healthy and expose them to healthy food as soon as possible; they will figure out what they like, and eating fruit & veggies and whole grain carbs won’t be a foreign concept.
Switch up the Sandwich
There is a variety of whole wheat carb choices out there that will allow you to put a fresh spin on the boring old sandwich such as: tortillas, mini pitas, thin bagels or whole grain crackers. Give these ideas a try:
-Whole wheat wraps with turkey, tuna or egg salad, use low-fat mayo or hummus, cheese and their fav fresh veggies (cut the wrap into wheels so it’s easier & more fun to eat!)
-Mini whole wheat pita pockets – fill with their favourite protein, veggies & sauce for bite-sized mini pitas
-Create your own healthy version of the “lunchables” using whole grain crackers, real (not processed) cheese, slices of turkey or chicken, cucumber rounds & cherry tomatoes
Pack a Thermos
Leftovers are a huge timesaver. Make a big pot of chilli (my husband happens to make a really good one) or stew; warm it up in the morning, and pack it in their thermos with some whole grain crackers for lunch = H.E.Y! (healthy, easy & yummy). You can also pack leftover whole wheat spaghetti with ground turkey, quinoa, barley risotto, bean salad, wheatberry salad , etc. Choose dinner options that will make good leftovers!
Healthy Spin on the Classics
-PB & J: use natural peanut butter (not the regular kind that’s full of hydrogenated oil & sugar) & sugar-free jam or substitute jams altogether for fresh fruit: blueberries, sliced strawberries or bananas. If your school has a no-peanut policy, try almond butter instead!
-Veggies & dip: make a big batch of home-made chick-pea or black bean hummus as a dipper instead of ranch dressing that is full of fat & fillers
-Fruit snacks: instead of packing fruit snacks that are full of refined sugar; give them REAL fruit! Grapes, blueberries, watermelon or pineapple are great options.
-Cookies: Try my Healthy Cookie recipe – you can make a big batch & freeze them!
-Chips: make some light microwave popcorn, and put some in a zip-lock bag. Popcorn is a whole grain, high in fibre & low in fat. You can also give them Blue Menu’s Multi-Grain pretzels with almonds & raisins for an easy trail mix.
It’s important to give your kids a day or two where they are allowed to have a treat of their choice. If you order pizza the night before, pack a slice or two for their lunch. If they love Fruit Roll-Ups or Oreos; let them have that as a snack a couple days a week. Yogurt-covered pretzels, a handful of chocolate chips or dried fruit are also good ‘treat’ options. As long as they eat healthy the majority of the week, a couple treats won’t kill them.
Do you have any H.E.Y lunches or snacks that you’d like to share? Do you have any tips or tricks to get your kids to eat healthy?
If you have any questions, comments or ideas for future posts just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org