It’s the time of year when many parents wish their moniker was Lunch Lady or Executive Chef! Why is it often so difficult to please a child’s palate, while not serving them ultra-processed foods packed with sugar, salt and other unwanted ingredients? Here are few suggestions that will hopefully ease your family’s lunch time routine this school year.
Your child is more likely to enjoy their lunch if involved in the process. Children learn by doing. Children learn to like new foods by choosing on their own whether or not to eat a given food. As a parent, it is your job to provide them with structure and choices. It is your child’s job to decide whether or not they eat a food item and how much or little they eat.1
Food Range Diary
You will be surprised how many different foods your child eats when you write it down on paper. Create a Food Range Diary with your child by documenting in columns all the proteins, grains/starches and fruits and vegetables that he or she has had at least two to three bites of for a meal or snack. When making lunch, make sure to incorporate at least one item from each of the three columns in order to create a balanced meal.
Eating is an extremely sensory rich process! Children not only chose foods for how they taste, but also for how they smell, appear, and even sound when you cut, for example, a piece of celery. Is it crunchy or mushy? Make foods look appealing by presenting them in different shapes or containers. Lunch does not have to be a traditional sandwich with a side of chips. Use a bento box filled with variety!
Hydrate with Water
Make sure your child has their own reusable water bottle. Water helps your child to digest their nutrients and restore fluids lost through breathing and sweating. Water is free of additives and sugar that is found in other unnecessary beverages.
Keep it simple. Meal prep does not have to be a complex process. It can be as simple as making extra boiled eggs on the weekend, that you plan to add to meals during the week. Always have big bowls of chopped fruit and vegetables on hand so family members can grab and go!
1. Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/handout-dor-tasks-cap-2016.pdf
2. Food Range Diary.