With kids headed back-to-school this month I‘m sharing my top 3 steps to getting your kids to eat a healthy lunch, plus a few recipes that would be perfect to include in their school lunchbox (even if they're eating it at the kitchen table)!
Your best bet in getting your kids to eat a healthy lunch is to get them involved. Sure, they may reject some of your new, healthy ideas at first, but when kids are able to participate hands-on with the process of selecting and cooking the food they eat (and growing it, too, if you can start a garden!), they’re far more receptive to trying new things and admitting to liking them.
These three steps are simple, easy ways to help kids get involved:
- Let them choose the foods to include in their lunchbox. If they gravitate towards only treats or baked goodies, have them also choose something more robust, like a protein or veggie to go alongside it.
- Get them involved at the grocery store. If you bring them with you, ask them to find a specific ingredient (that you know they can reach!) in the produce section, or have them pick a vegetable or fruit—perhaps something new they haven’t tried before—to bring at home and use in their lunch that week. If you're ordering online or doing curbside pickup, ask them to help when you're placing the order.
- Give them kid-friendly tasks in the kitchen. If they’re very young, they can help wash veggies or tear large lettuce leaves for a salad. As they get a bit older, they can measure ingredients with you, mix salad dressings or sauces, and eventually learn to chop some things up and work with heat to cook their foods.
What you’ll be teaching your children through these steps is far more important than even the changes in their food each day. It’s all about empowerment and a skill set that will help them take care of themselves as they grow up!
So many kids today never learn these basic life skills, and by getting your kids involved in the kitchen, especially when they’re young, you’ll get their excited engagement to transform how they look at food. Instead of just fighting a battle whenever they want to eat junk food, you can empower them to get creative in the kitchen—cooking is a lot like a fun art project that you get to eat when it’s done. They’ll build kitchen confidence that’ll translate into broader abilities for a lifetime, and it’ll take the pressure off of you as you work to keep things as healthy as possible in the kitchen.
Kid-Friendly Lunch Ideas:
- Deli Tuna Salad, served over lettuce wraps or gluten-free bread
- Cauli Hummus with raw veggies or GF crackers on the side
- Fruit & veggies (especially local, seasonal options – try to avoid any from the Dirty Dozen list each year!)
- Slices of Deli Meat (check the ingredients – Applegate & Fork in the Road are both great options)
- Plantain chips
- Kale chips
- Piece of quiche or frittata (for example: my Pesto and Pancetta Frittata)
- Meatballs (for example: my Thanksgiving Stuffing Meatballs)
- Mini Muffins (for example: my Carrot Pumpkin Spice Muffins)
- Chocolate Almond Butter Cups as a sweet treat
- Be sure not to miss the Crispy Paleo Chicken Tenders or the Sweet Potato Bacon Tots in our 21DSD Kid-Friendly Recipe Round-Up as well.
One of the best ways to stick to a healthy eating plan, especially when you're still trying to make different choices and change your habits, is planning your meals ahead of time. This Guide to Meal Planning from Wellness Mama is a great introduction to meal planning for your whole family.