There is nothing worse than taking the time to make and pack healthy snacks and lunches for your kids only to have then return half eaten or not eaten at all. Here are some tips on how to make your kids love their healthy lunches.
1) Have them pick out their lunch bags and storage containers
Pride of Ownership: I know that my kids have wanted to pick out their own lunch boxes and colourful containers for the past few years. It allows them the freedom of choice based on their likes. As long as it is functional and makes sense then why not! This way they feel part of the process and own their lunch time experiences right from the onset!
2) Ask them what they would like for their snack & lunches
Choice & Decision Making: If you’re the type of Mom who has her fridge fully stocked with healthy options have them pick out what they’d like. Otherwise, give them a few options with what you have on hand and take it from there. This helps kids with decision making and is a fool proof way that they’ll eat the lunch they’ve selected for themselves.
3) Get them to help in the kitchen
Life-skills: There is no better way to teach kids about food, where it comes from and how to cook then in their very own kitchen. Get them to chop up their celery sticks (using kiddie proof knives, we love these plastic kiddie knives that actually cut produce but not little hands by Curious Chef on Amazon) or blend up some chickpeas for a homemade hummus you can pack and store for the week. Make it fun with music & storytelling, watch and see your Petits Chefs grow in the kitchen and in life.
4) Make it REAL
Add the BAM! In your cooking: We want kids to LOVE REAL FOOD. So cooking is high on our priority list. So if you’re going to cook a lunch do it in the morning as food will stay warm up until lunch in a proper heat insulating container. Don’t forget to add the BAM! (which is love) into your cooking, trust us it tastes so much better and you’ll see how your kids will gobble it up.
5) Nothing in the fridge? Go grocery shopping together!
Educational: This can be a very educational experience for all, parents and kids included. Make it an adventure in trying some new fruit or veggie the family has never eaten before and have kids pick out things they like, this does not give “cart blanc” (get the pun) to have a shopping cart… full of junk food. Our ratio for a healthy, balanced, lifestyle is 80-20, meaning 80% clean, whole, real foods to 20% not so clean, whole, real foods. There is nothing worse than seeing a child’s lunch box full of processed, pre-packaged foods, which are high in sugar, fats & sodium. So for every 10 items only 2 items are on the naughty list and only to be indulged in once, maybe twice a week.
6) Snack foods
Preferences & Selective Eaters: Some kids would prefer snack foods. A lunch broken down individually into smaller containers, for instance a deconstructed turkey and ham sandwich. Have turkey in one container, ham in another, cheese in another, some cherry tomatoes & crackers. This is great for little kids with little fingers!
7) Make it fun, make it personal
Individuality, Confidence Building & just the thing to put a smile on their face: Here we have to tread lightly, especially, if you have kids in different age groups. There may be some tweens/teens out there that wouldn’t appreciate their Mom’s or Dad’s cutting their sandwich into a bunny rabbit, worried that their friends would see it! So, maybe a private little note with a sticker saying, “I ♥ U” or some other encouraging, confidence boosting message would be okay. For smaller children they would love the bunny rabbit and maybe not so much the note. Be genuine, know your kids and respect their uniqueness and make it fun for every age & every personality type. They’ll eat with pleasure knowing you thought specifically about them.
8) Lunch Game
Rewards & Incentives: At the beginning of the week, make a spreadsheet for each child with a list of all the food included in the lunch box daily. At the end of the day when emptying out the lunch boxes take a tally of what was left, each item not finished gets a point on the spreadsheet. The child with the least amount of points at the end of the week WINS. It could be something as simple as picking out an item from the dollar store or a book at the bookstore. Prizes or incentives work great for selective, picky eaters where parents are struggling it also gives parents a good idea of what their children like or don’t like.
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About Denise K. Livotti
Denise K. Livotti founded Petits Chefs Academy in January, 2011 in the hope of inspiring children, youth and families to take back the kitchen and discover the fun, value and joy in cooking healthy and nutritious food. Certified as a L.E.A.N Health Lifestyle Coach and Sustainable Local Food Advocate, Denise and her team of professional certified Chefs, ECE’s, Nutritionists and Occupational Therapists look forward to welcoming kids and parents at the Petits Chef Academy.