While kids usually eat breakfast and dinner at home, they are typically away from parents for lunchtime at school — and free to make unhealthy food choices. Though you can’t control everything that goes in your child’s mouth when he is out of your sight, you can lay the groundwork at home for him to make better lunchtime decisions.
Ditch unhealthy foods at home
You can’t expect your children to pick grilled chicken over cheeseburgers at school if you are offering them unhealthy choices at home. Ditch the processed foods that are high in sugar, fat, sodium and preservatives, and stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthy, whole foods.
Get your kids involved in the kitchen
When kids are involved in preparing and cooking their meals, they become more interested in what they are eating. Even toddlers can assist in the kitchen — tearing lettuce, rinsing veggies and helping set the table.
Read more about cooking with kids >>
Take a trip to the farmers market
Show your kids healthy foods by taking them on trips to the farmers market and even local you-pick-it farms. Encourage your children to try new fruits and vegetables, and let them make some of the shopping choices while you are at the store.
Lead by example
You can’t expect your kids to eat healthy meals if your daily lunch consists of Cheetos and a Coke. Practice what you preach and eat well-rounded, nutritious meals and healthy snacks in front of your children whenever you can. Another great idea is to plant a vegetable garden together in your own backyard. When kids see how the veggies grow, they are more likely to want to eat them. If you don’t have a large yard for a garden, don’t fret. You can plant veggies in small spaces on balconies and in window boxes.
Pack interesting lunches
If the options at your child’s daycare or school aren’t very healthy, then pack your kids’ lunches. Brown-bagging it doesn’t have to consist of just PB&J and an apple. You can make their lunches interesting by packing everything from fruit salad to quinoa to last night’s leftovers. When preparing their fruits and vegetables, put a little effort into making the food fun and appealing.
Check out these fun ways to make fruit kid-friendly >>
Advocate at the school
If all your children’s friends are eating the lunch served at school, your kids are going to want to do the same. It’s up to you and other parents to advocate for healthier lunch options in our schools. Get involved by volunteering for committees and taking part in advocacy for the health, wellness and nutrition of kids in school.
As they say, there is power in numbers. If you want to make a difference at your child’s school, team up with other parents and come up with a list of concerns and a plan of action to present to the school administration.