It's time to rethink the lunch plan in your household at the beginning of the school year, or anytime in between by getting your children involved.
Allowing children to pack their own lunches is a perfect occasion to talk to your child about a balanced diet and teach them about healthy, balanced meals. While young children will need guidance at first, they will eventually learn how to choose items based on nutritional value. Consider printing out the food pyramid and ensure that the items they have selected fit into its categories.
Teresia O'Connor, M.D., B.S., assistant professor of pediatric nutrition at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, says that younger children and parents should pack lunches together and, as the child gets older, he or she can take on more of the responsibility. This becomes part of the morning (or evening routine) and something as common as the responsibility of brushing their teeth.
Imagine the look on your child's face after she opens up her lunchbox only to find last night's Brussels sprouts tucked neatly into their colorful containers. Having kids pack their own lunches eliminates the element of surprise and reinforces good decision making abilities – they made the choice, now they eat it.
Studies show that children of all ages can help with menu planning, shopping, and preparing meals. Essentially, children who play a part preparing the meal, in this case lunch, will be more likely to eat it. Avoid power struggles by allowing them to pack what they like (that is also nutritious) and encourage experimenting with new foods to build their palettes. Don't be discouraged if the food comes right back home, though, sometimes it takes several tries to get your child to accept it, let alone like it!
Organization and financial responsibility are basic skills for your children to learn as you prepare them for the real world. No need to wait; start now by involving them in the planning, shopping, and coupon clipping. Teach them how to make a list (you could even include a quick lesson on alphabetizing) and what to look for when selecting items at the grocery store.
Packing their own lunches suddenly is packed with lifelong lessons to carry them through to adulthood!
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