Whether children eat lunch at home, enjoy a school-provided lunch or pack a lunch box, the goal is a nutrient-rich meal to fuel their brains and bodies for the afternoon. The trick is providing a lunch that packs a nutritional punch and appeals to your child. Try the following ideas to create lunches your child will eat rather than trade, throw away or bring back home. Put Your Child in the Chef's Seat When children help plan their lunches, they are more likely to eat them. If your child's school has a lunch program, review the menus together and pick the ones that are appealing. When children eat school lunch, they are more likely to consume milk, meats, grains and vegetables, which gives them a higher nutrient intake over the course of an entire day. Cost- and nutrition-wise, school lunch is a great value. If your child is more likely to eat a lunch packed at home, create a system that works for both of you. Agree on what goes into every lunch: some protein, a grain, at least one fruit and one vegetable, a calcium-rich food or beverage (if not buying milk at school) and perhaps a small sweet or additional snack item. Make a checklist of what your child likes in each category. For example: "The vegetables I will eat in my lunch are: baby carrots, green or red pepper slices with ranch dip or hummus, cherry tomatoes or a mini-salad." Make a specific plan for the next week. Take time on the weekend to bag items for each day. Go for Gold Medal Food Choices Variety is the basis of well-balanced nutrition. But don't worry if a child wants exactly the same lunch for two weeks in a row. Work around normal pickiness by creating a list of alternatives. For example, if sandwiches are in the "don't like" column, what else might work? -Wraps -Cracker sandwiches (usual ingredients on round or square whole-grain crackers) -Little salads with protein (cheese, nuts, beans, seeds)all dependent upon allergies of course, you can add a fruit salad with yogurt or pieces of chicken from dinner the night before with berries -Bread-free sandwiches (such as a slice of turkey or roast beef wrapped around a cheese stick and crunchy slice of sweet bell pepper and/or carrot)
Focus on Eye-Appeal with bright colors from fruits and vegetables.