Breakfast is often referred to as the most important meal of the day, but lunch is a very close second. While school lunch programs are much improved, there are still some times when parents may choose to pack a child's lunch. Either lunch option is fine; however, it is just as important for a packed lunch to be as healthy as the new lunch options. The following tips will help ensure your child has a nutritious, healthy school meal each day:
Give the Child Ownership
If you have a particularly picky eater, you should consider letting the child have some say in what they eat. This is not a free-for-all snack binge. Instead, it is about respecting your child's eating style and preferences. Take them to the grocery store and allow them to choose some items for their lunch. This can provide the perfect opportunity to discuss with them the difference between healthy and not-so-healthy food choices. Try not to prevent them from choosing something that they like, even if it is not as nutritious as you would like. Let them have a treat as long as they make other healthy choices.
Keep Portion Sizes in Mind
A beautifully packed lunch is wonderful, but it does no good if the child is not able to eat it. It's important to consider how much your child can eat, and how much of each food item they should eat. If you pack too much, your child's food could end up in the trash because they did not have enough time to finish. Another concern is the child may eat all of one item and none of another, for example, the child may choose to get full on sweets rather than fruits or vegetables. Packing a balanced, portion-friendly lunch is a great way to ensure they have a healthy meal.
Check the School Menu
Even if you are packing their lunch, purchasing a meal in the cafeteria can be a good exercise in judgment. You may want to let your child eat a few school lunches from time to time to see how they fare when judging which foods are better than others. Keep a copy of your school's school lunch menu on hand. Check it over the night before with your child and help them figure out which choices would be the healthiest. This way, you will have an idea of what your child will eat when they are away from you with no packed lunch.
While all of these tips can be helpful, the ultimate way your child is going to learn to eat well is by your example. By maintaining balanced eating habits in your home, you are setting your child to choose the right foods in the future. If you're concerned about your child's healthy eating habits, contact a nutrition resource such as New Horizon Foods.