Most of us pride ourselves in being good parents and doing what’s right for our kids. That includes feeding them meals that are both delicious and nutritious. When it comes to packing lunch, keeping the midday meal interesting can be a real challenge. Are your children really eating what you pack in their lunchbox or are they trading their sandwich for snack cakes and candy bars? Which part of their lunch ends up in the trash can each day?
Since we can’t be with our children every minute of every day, we don’t always know what they’re eating. With the child obesity rate in the U.S. at its highest in decades, parents are especially concerned about their children’s poor eating habits. Though schools have endeavored to address the obesity situation, many still offer enticing vending machines filled with sugary soft drinks or sell chips and other fattening snacks as part of their daily offerings.
Packing or Buying?
If you’re trying to monitor your child’s calorie intake, it’s best to pack a lunch rather than provide money for the purchase of the noontime meal. You may have more success doing this with your elementary-aged children then with older youth or teens, who prefer to buy lunch. If you are packing lunches, there are a number of things you can do to insure that they’re being eaten.
What’s in the Box?
Within reason, let your children have some input as to what goes into their lunch box. Packing bologna and cheese everyday can get a bit tiresome. Experiment at home first to determine your child’s favorite lunch foods. He or she may look forward to a different sandwich several times a week or something more creative, like cheese and crackers, yogurt, or even last night’s leftovers. Offering something they enjoy will lessen the chance that they’ll throw away the food or trade it for something else.
Lunch snacks can be the biggest culprit. Admittedly, most kids don’t want veggie sticks in their lunchbox but you can certainly be more creative than potato chips or snack cakes. Try applesauce, pudding or yogurt (the ones in the squeeze tube are great), pretzels, microwave popcorn, or the new baked variety of chips.
Insuring that your middle and high school students will eat a healthy lunch is a bit more difficult. Those who have jobs have perhaps taken to buying their own lunch with the money they’ve earned. That makes regulating their food intake difficult. Nonetheless, on the days that you’re packing lunch, be sure that variety is part of the plan for these older kids as well.
For the Obese Child
If your child has a serious obesity problem or is on a weight loss program, don’t be afraid to contact the school nutritionist. He or she may be able to offer solutions that will assist your child in buying and eating the right foods. If, after you chat, you’re convinced that school food will do your child more harm than good, discuss meal options with your child and be sure that you pack things he or she enjoys. If your child has made huge strides in their struggle with their weight, they won’t want lunch to spoil their success.