Healthy Eating for Kids
Doralynne Jarvis, RD, LN
Assistant Director of Nutrition Services
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital
It’s back to school time, which also means packing sack lunches occasionally for some of you. For many kids, eating well is almost equivalent to doing homework. Luckily, children’s eating habits are much easier to change than those of adults. Kid-friendly doesn’t have to mean a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Kids tend to be curious by nature and sometimes are not given enough credit for their willingness to try new foods. With a little creativity you and your kids can pack a healthy lunch that is fun at the same time.
For example, try to expose your kids to a new flavor each week to enhance good dietary habits and involve them in the selection process. Adding new flavors can be as simple as packing a new fruit such as mango slices or dried banana chips. Your kids may also want to make their sandwich into a wrap using a whole-wheat tortilla for extra fiber and nutrients. Vegetables can add color to their lunch and are easy to eat when cut into bite-size pieces.
Don’t Give Up
Remember, it may take several tastes over a period of time before kids may realize that they like the new food item. Don’t give up if your child turns their nose up at the first bite. Continue to “re-offer” that food item in a few weeks, and keep trying. Sometimes it takes kids 15-20 times before they will eat new items.
Another fun approach, which fortunately makes it easier for parents, is to pack ingredients for kids to assemble themselves. Kids love dipping, rolling and stacking their foods into fun eats. You can pack lean deli meats, fresh shredded carrots, cucumber slices, etc. to build a sandwich either on a whole-grain roll, bread or tortilla.
Kids love color, so make sure that their lunch has a variety of colors and shapes. Color is sometimes the key when it comes to nutrition as well. The more color a fruit or vegetable has, usually tells us that there are more nutrients in that item. For example, when selecting lettuce, choose dark leafy greens like baby spinach or Romaine lettuce instead of iceberg. Berries are also a great source of nutrients with their bright, vibrant colors.
Fruits and vegetables can also be made more exciting by cutting them into fun shape such as triangles or circles or simply using one of their favorite cookie cutters. You can also use this technique when it comes to sandwiches to help spice them up and lessen their lunch boredom.
Hopefully this will help solve some sack lunch dilemmas, as well as give you ideas on how to pack a healthy lunch.