Saturday, October 22, 2011

Finding Balance in the Box

The lunch box that is. Do you struggle to find a balance between what the kids want to eat and what YOU want them to eat? And if you miss that balance do they end up eating next to nothing?

This is a big dilemma for lots of families. We all know that nutritious eating is key to good energy and good concentration and learning in school. It is really hard to learn on an empty stomach. It's also hard to learn on a stomach full of sugary starchy goodness and nothing else. We want and need to ensure that our carefully chosen and packed lunches actually get consumed.

So what's a parent to do? I have to admit that we've been pretty lucky. Both of our boys have always been fans of fruits and veggies, so we haven't had to struggle with this too much.  Some sliced cucumber, baby carrots, a container of apple sauce, or a handful of grapes are great additions that actually do add some sweetness as well as nutritional value. Bite-sized veggies and dip are a fun option that are almost always consumed. The ease of finger food plus the fun of dipping can keep the pickier eaters munching longer.

Plus, we've always included a dessert-type item to calm their sweet tooth and provide a mid-day treat. Something small like a Hallowe'en treat-sized chocolate bar. Or two chocolate chip cookies (homemade if I'm on the ball that week). And pretzels are a relatively healthy snack that always feels like a treat. So include those from time to time as well.

Overall, I think the best strategy is to include your kids in the decision-making around the lunch box.  Let them contribute to the grocery list with some of their wants. (Or bring them to the store with you if you are braver than I.)  Then provide them with some options and ask them to make choices. What do they want in their lunch? Be prepared to negotiate with them and allow maybe one crazy treat item in exchange for them agreeing to the turkey wrap and carrot sticks. Especially if you have let them choose the turkey wrap over the toasted tuna sandwich, you have given them some say and they will be more likely to eat.

With many schools implementing the litterless lunch these days, any uneaten food will come home at the end of the day. If you are finding that the protein is consistently being left behind in favour of the sweet, then maybe the consequence is that the sweet disappears for a day or two.  I would just be clear about this consequence in advance. This is not about punishment, but rather about underscoring the importance of healthy and balanced eating. Talk to your kids. Include them in lunch prep. Model for them what a healthy lunch includes.

For lots more lunch box ideas and inspiration, please head over and check out Canadian Moms just like you are partnering there with the Dempsters nutrition team to help you out of your lunchtime rut!

Disclosure – I am participating in the Dempster’s Lunch Box Inspirations program by Mom Central Canada on behalf of Dempster’s Canada. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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