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Healthy School Lunches for Your Picky Eater

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Healthy School Lunches

Is your child a picky eater, making it difficult to pack their lunch? It can be difficult to pack them a school lunch that is nutritious and yummy enough that they’ll want to eat it. Have no fear! Here are ways you can pack a healthy school lunch for a picky eater.

What Should Be in a School Lunch

Before you can pack a lunch, it’s important to know what should be included in that lunch. Knowing the proper portions for your child’s age can help keep them healthy. Below is a list of the good foods that belong in a child’s lunch:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Low-fat milk or dairy products
  • Protein

Protein is often overlooked or forgotten, but should be incorporated into meals and snacks as often as possible helping your children stay full longer. Parents should try to avoid foods high in sodium, fat and sugar.

How to Get Your Picky Eater to Eat Healthy

Don’t Make a Big Deal About Eating Healthy

If you decide to try a new recipe, don’t announce it to your child. If you do, they may assume right away that they don’t like what you made. Instead, hand them their lunch, and let them decide for themselves.

Make Lunch Fun

Sometimes, it may take a little creativity to get your child to eat something you made. Maybe it’s using a fun-shaped cookie cutter to cut their sandwich with or giving a witty name to a food. For example, “crazy carrots” go well with “super salmon”. Is the food you’re serving dunkable? Offer something healthy your child can dunk their food in, like apples and peanut butter or yogurt.

Foods with a fun name may be intriguing to a picky eater, like mango, papaya, bok choy and zucchini. If you’re able to make a game out of food, go for it. Give your child a fruit or vegetable in their box and see if they can guess what it is when they get home from school.

Another way to make lunch fun is to include a variety of colors in your child’s lunch. Many kids are visually stimulated, so making their lunch a variety of colors encourages them to continue eating. Fruits and vegetables come in a wide variety of colors, making it easy to keep their lunches new, exciting and healthy!

Talk Up Healthy Food

Kids aren’t too concerned with whether or not a food will affect their health in the long run, but you are. Tell your child that eating junk food won’t give him or her the energy to play on the playground with friends like an apple would.

Work With Your Child

If you try to force your picky eater into eating healthy, they’ll probably resist. This may require some creativity on your part by turning their favorite unhealthy foods into healthy lunches. Is your child’s favorite food chicken nuggets? Make them healthy by baking your chicken nuggets instead of using frozen ones and use whole-grain bread crumbs.

Another way to make children more excited about their lunch is to involve them in the planning process. Whether you have them help make the grocery list so they can choose what fruit or veggies go into their lunch or even take them grocery shopping. Often times we notice kids are more willing to eat their school lunches when they feel that they were in control of what went into their lunch.

Eat the Food Yourself

If you don’t like your greens, why would your child? The best way to encourage your child is to show them why they should be eating healthy. If your child watches you enjoying foods that are nutritious, they may be more inclined to give those foods a shot.

Dessert is Not a Reward

A child’s sweet tooth might grow if you withhold desserts or sweets. Instead, select one or two days of the week that your child gets a sweet in his or her lunch box. If possible, try to redefine dessert with a healthier option, such as fruit or yogurt.

Examples of a Healthy School Lunch

Finger Food Day

Kids love fingers foods, so create a lunch based around it. This lunch can include:

  • String cheese
  • Fruits such as blueberries or strawberries
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower or carrots
  • Whole grain crackers
  • A slice of zucchini bread

Pizza Day

Was it pizza night? Turn that into pizza day the next day for you child. What does a pizza day lunch include?

  • Leftover pizza from the night before. Extra points if it’s veggie pizza!
  • Grapes
  • Sliced veggies, like cucumbers or cherry tomatoes 
  • An oatmeal cookie

Breakfast for Lunch

Everyone loves breakfast, so why not make it for lunch as well? A breakfast lunch can include things such as:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Fruit salad
  • Whole grain waffles
  • Avocado slices

UnityPoint Clinic is Here to Keep Your Family Healthy

Everyone in your family should have a healthy and nutritious diet, even when things are hectic. If you have questions or concerns about your children’s health, make an appointment today at a convenient UnityPoint Clinic location or message your doctor through MyUnityPoint.