Did you know that last week, October 9th-13th, was National School Lunch Week? President John F. Kennedy created this week in 1962 in order to celebrate the school lunch program in America.
This year’s theme was “School Lunch: Recipes for Success”. The theme was centered around sharing tips on what makes your child’s school lunch special, and how it prepares them for success. School lunch programs have made great strides in the past few years. Schools are starting to recognize what children need in their diets, and have begun supplying it. This means less availability of French fries and pizza, and more fresh fruit, vegetable, and whole grain options.
Even with this progress in your child’s school, it can still be difficult to get children to make the right choices for their bodies. Packing lunch for your child most days each week can help build healthy habits so that they can become autonomous in their eating in the future.
Don’t worry if you missed celebrating National School Lunch Week because you can celebrate school lunches any time! Keep these 3 tips in mind every time you need to make lunch for your child to bring to school.
1. Keep it interesting
You and I wouldn’t want to eat the same thing every day, so why would your children? Although it is easy to make and eat, the typical PB&J sandwich can get pretty monotonous. When boredom hits at lunch time, this is when kids usually start to ask for lunch money to get what their friends are eating. Unfortunately, these may not always be the greatest choices for them to perform at their best.
To avoid this, try mixing up lunch throughout the week. Although this may take a bit more prep work, this can easily be done the night before. Even a three-day rotation of several sandwiches can be enough variety to keep your children happy and satisfied. Don’t forget to keep snacks interesting as well!
Here are 3 lunch meals you can keep on a three-day rotation:
- Whole grain tortilla wrap with lean deli meat, low-fat cheese, lettuce and tomatoes; apple; air-popped popcorn
- Grilled chicken (or any leftover protein from the night before) with brown rice and peas; pear; pretzels
- Homemade chili with ground turkey and mixed with vegetables; peach; whole grain tortilla chips
2. Make it an activity
Who says lunch planning has to just be a parent’s job? Including your child in the planning process can be a fun way that not only involves them but also gets their feedback on what they would like to eat.
How many times have you sent a banana to school, only to see it come back home again? If children are given options of healthy meals and snacks, they will feel that they have more control over what they eat and will be less likely to waste food.
Make grocery shopping a fun family activity – let your child select 2-3 fruit, vegetable and protein choices that are appealing to them for lunch.
3. Savvy swapping
Get smart and savvy with your swaps! Easy food exchanges can help to steer your child on the path to healthier food choices. If your child requests chips for a snack to have at school, try suggesting air-popped popcorn instead! This can even be made at home for a fun nighttime activity, and put into different colored baggies for each day of the week. If they want something sweet, like cookies, try offering low-sugar granola bars. Small steps, such as a few swaps a week, can lead to healthier choices in the long run!
The most important thing to remember is to get your child involved and have fun when making their lunches! This way they will learn about healthy eating and expand what they might like.
Your Turn to Take Action: This school year, try experimenting with your child to find their recipe for success. Eating properly is crucial for a child’s optimal performance, so talk to your family about what foods they like and determine from there what would best nourish their bodies. Share some examples below for others to learn from!