Packing a healthy school lunch is easy. Getting your kids to eat that healthy lunch is another issue entirely. Since the advent of the doughnut, parents have struggled to convince their kids to eat the nutritious foods they prepare for them. The following are a few tips, and sample cold lunches that may help get your kids to finally eat those veggie sticks and whole grains while away at school.

  • Make lunches fun!

At first glance, the look and taste of Lunchables® isn’t anything too special. Contrary to appearances, however, Lunchables quickly became one of Oscar Meyer’s most successful products, partly due to the fun kids had eating them. Consider making your own healthy alternative to Lunchables. Pack some whole grain crackers; thick-cut, lean meat; cucumber slices; avocado slices; spinach leaves; etc. and allow kids to build their own mini lunch sandwiches. Consider using cookie cutters to cut the meat into fun shapes to enhance the fun. Use the leftover scraps of meat on a chef salad you can take for your own lunch. 

  • Add in tasty dips.

Veggies are notorious for being rejected by picky eaters. Many kids will eat them; however, with a tasty to dip, veggies can appear a bit more appealing to kids. Various dip options can be just as healthy as the veggies; but your kids will never know. Cheeses or creams are often the base of dips and impart a rich flavor. Avocado or an olive tapenade are healthier bases that contain healthy fats, which still provide a lot of flavor. As an added bonus, the fat in the dip will actually help enhance the absorption of carotenoids and fat soluble vitamins, as well. Fat doesn’t need to be the principle ingredient in dips. Recipes using yogurt can be surprisingly flavorful, and hummus is mostly made of beans, which pack a fiber and protein-laden nutritional punch.

  • Involve kids in the purchasing and preparation process.

Letting your kids help choose foods for their lunch at the grocery store, makes them feel like they have some control over their food choices, and may increase their willingness to eat them. The trick is to make sure you’re comfortable with all the options presented. Kids may also often enjoy preparing their own foods, with help from you, as needed, depending on their age. As kids prepare the food, they become more comfortable with the ingredients and the dish as a whole, and may be more likely to eat it, especially if it is a new food. Kids also take great pride in what they create, and may feel a positive sense of accomplishment as they happily eat their food.

  • Make it sweet.

It’s not a secret that kids love sweet foods. While it is still advisable to limit the amount of sweetener used in the preparation of their foods, consider adding a little fruit puree, honey, or maple syrup to enhance the appeal of certain foods. A honey glaze on meats, lightly candied nuts, fresh fruit added to a vegetable smoothie, or fruits incorporated into whole-grain baked goods like breads, muffins, or cookies, can all be ways to get kids to eat healthy foods. As children get older, gradually decrease the frequency and amount of sweetener added to foods.

By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Nutrition Specialist

This article is for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease.