Make A Nutritious Lunch Fun for Your Kids
Lunch Fun (Yes, really!)
By June Santini
I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a cooking nut. I like to make homemade, healthful meals that my family will enjoy without using the (admittedly-convenient) shortcuts of packaged food. Working full time and making sure the two active teens still at home (down from four!) stay on top of what they need to accomplish, it's sometimes hard to find the time to do this, especially when considering what they will eat for lunch. But I have always held that it is possible to find tasty foods the whole family will enjoy that are also good for us -- and that it is important to sit down as a family and eat together as often as possible.
The fact that we can't eat together while the kids are at school, though, doesn't mean I throw all caution to the winds when it comes to their lunches.
As a working mother, I know the predicament well: It is far easier to send kids off to school with lunch money in a pocket than to get up even earlier to pack lunches. While it's true that schools are doing better at providing more healthful options at lunchtime, school lunch still mostly starts out as frozen, processed food. I don’t know about your kids, but my 12-year-old boy will choose the chicken nuggets over the salad bar every time.
"We eat with our eyes first."
Pack it in or pack it with them?
Yes, packing lunches is challenging. Getting your kids to eat what you pack is challenging. So what’s a mother to do? Peanut butter and jelly gets boring day after day.
Here are a few simple strategies can get your kids eating more healthful lunches AND be the envy of their chicken nugget-chomping friends.
We eat with our eyes first. Displaying food attractively makes it much more fun to eat, and therefore your kids will be more likely to eat it. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But it works. I’ll show you how a few simple tricks can get your kids excited about their lunch again, while you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have provided the best meal for your child that you can.
Don't be afraid to mix it up a bit! According to Dr. Deborah Kennedy, pediatric nutritionist, author of Nutrition Bites and contributing author to the website BuildHealthyKids.com, we should think of our children’s tongues like an artist’s palette: If we introduce them early on to a wide variety of foods, we will create a situation in which there is a preference for and a liking of those foods.If you think you’d like it, your kids probably will, too. (Eventually.)
Get the supplies you need. The best thing you can do to make packing lunches easy, quick, and painless is to invest in reusable containers that can be easily packed into lunch boxes and bags, like bento-style lunch systems.
What the heck is a bento, you ask? Simply stated, a bento just means "lunch." Well, "lunch" in Japanese. Now, before you panic and quit reading, I am not suggesting you should cook Japanese food for your kid’s lunches. I just want you to take a few tips from your fellow moms in the orient. A bento lunch is no more than a simple container with the food attractively arranged and tightly packed inside. And the really nice part is, a bento typically features fresh veggies and fruit.
So, a simple container, huh? Yes, a round or square plastic food storage container is all you need. But if you want to make your kids the envy of all of their friends, you can buy a bento box online for as little as $2 or some cool Fit and Fresh containers for a few dollars each. Read my reviews of some of the best products here.
Branch out with new recipes. Now, I know I said you didn’t have to cook Japanese food to go into your bento. But that doesn’t mean you can’t. Some typical Japanese bento food is quite delicious eaten cold or at room temperature and kids generally will like it. Take those processed frozen chicken nuggets, for instance. Instead of having those detestable creatures, you can marinate some chicken tenders or boneless, skinless, breasts in bottled Teriyaki sauce, then pop them in the oven and slip them into a container, along with some cut up fruit and veggies and a side dish of fried rice. Your kids will love them. Click here for some of my favorite lunch recipes.
You'll be producing terrific lunches in no time, and next time you're at a school function, some mom will walk up and say, "My kid is always talking about YOUR kid's lunch!"