My 1-year-old loves food so much that he is pretty open to trying most things. However, my 3-year-old is a whole other story. I’ve mentioned before that he can be very, shall we say, “particular” about what he eats. If it isn’t chicken fingers or corn, then it becomes a game of cajoling and begging and sweet-talking and, sadly, a little light threatening, i.e., “If you don’t finish your vegetables, you aren’t going to get that [insert incentive] you wanted to snack on later.”
Well, let me clarify that. He is fairly easy to please at breakfast time – and I’ve even figured out things he likes to eat at dinner. However, coming up with creative and healthy lunch ideas continued to pose a challenge up til this year. I can’t just slap together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every single day and expect he’ll be a happy camper. So I put a lot of thought into creative lunch ideas that are both healthy and also meet my son’s approval. You see, I want him to actually like the contents of his lunch or it will end up wasted… and that’s a “lose-lose” situation for both him and me!
Here are the personal guidelines I now follow to make it a “win-win” situation:
- I involved my son in the experience from the beginning – including taking him lunch-box shopping at the start of the school year! He picked out his own Spider Man lunch box, and is so excited to retrieve it from his cubby and open it up everyday at noon. You see, I find that the more involved your little ones are in the process the more they’ll look forward to eating their lunch.
- I now ask my son for suggestions about what he would enjoy eating. This gives him a greater sense of autonomy, and the process becomes more of a team effort. How can he argue with me later when he contributed to his school lunch menu? He particularly likes grocery shopping with me, as he can sit in the front of the cart and actually point out things that look appealing to him in the grocery store.
- I always buy the healthier, lower fat version of the items he suggests ( for example, if he requested a turkey or ham sandwich I make sure the meat is sodium and nitrite-free, and bread is always whole wheat)
- My son LOVES chips. So any chips I buy are baked, cookies are made with whole grain, and all other “treats” cooked in healthy oils.
I also make sure to introduce new foods at home first before packing it in his lunch for school. Per his school teacher, surprises in his lunch box are not usually welcomed by him. Familiarity goes a long way with kids!
Through this process I’ve come to realize that, just as we do, kids have diverse tastes and enjoy variety in their meals, and it’s only fair to provide them this! What ways do you make sure that your kids not only eat their entire school lunch, but enjoy it as well?