Fiber, found in bread, rice, pasta, and beans, is filling and good for little bodies (and yours). Always include a serving or two of fiber in your children's lunches.
Eating the recommended five fruits and veggies each day is easy when you work a couple into each meal. For maximum nutritional benefits, choose produce in different colors, such as orange carrot sticks and purple grapes, or red grape tomatoes and green peppers. Incorporate even more veggies by making them a centerpiece of the lunch and adding a low-fat dipping sauce.
Kids have opinions (lots of them!), and letting them help with meal planning can make them feel heard. "If they have a voice in their meals, they are more likely to accept those meals," says Candi Wingate, president of Nannies4Hire.
Likewise, kids are more likely to try foods that they've had a hand in preparing, so get your kids to join you in the kitchen. "I find that they tend to try more foods when they help me make meals and are also more inclined to eat fruits and vegetables when they get to experiment with them and make their own creations," says mom Coco Peate.
As the kids are helping you, and when you are eating, listen to what they are telling you about food. "Ask lots of questions and provide reasonable accommodations. 'Janey, what is it about that veggie that you don't like?' Some concerns can be addressed by minor modifications to the dish you are serving," says Wingate.
So, if your child isn't eating the bologna sandwich that you packed for lunch, ask him why and listen to his reasons. Maybe it's time to try a different sandwich.
Kids love those prepackaged boxed lunches, but they aren't very nutritious. Instead, make your own using cupcake liners and a stout, resealable container. For example, try grapes, red peppers, beef salami, cheese, and crackers. Another way to inject some fun into lunch is by giving it some character. "Make a sandwich smiley face—remove crusts in a rounded pattern and cut in a smile and two eyes," says Wingate.
Limit treats to no more than one per lunchtime. Treats aren't very nutritious and should be a special, occasional thing—not an all the time, everyday staple.
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