Trying to find a happy balance between healthy food and an exciting lunch can be difficult, especially when packing a lunch for your kids. Yes, as parents we want to ensure that our children are getting all the nutrition that they require, but it is not always easy to balance that need for nutrition with something tasty that children will actually want to eat.
Firstly, let’s consider the list of items that goes into a healthy, balanced packed lunch:
- Starchy food – bread, pasta, rice etc.
- Dairy item – cheese, yoghurt, milk
- Protein – meat, beans, eggs etc.
- Fruit or Veg – take your pick
- Drink – non sugary drink
Seems like there’s a lot of items but that is really the basics of any balanced packed lunch and there’s no avoiding it. Does that sound like something that would get your child excited? Unlikely! So, in order to create excitement, while still maintaining the nutritional content, what can you do?
#1 – Sandwich Creative Fun
There is one simple way of making a sandwich more exciting for children…make it a double decker! Instead of using two slices of bread with a filling, use three slices of bread with two filling layers. You can even get creative with the fillings with different fillings on each level! It may sound simple, but it works, and your children will love it. Of course, it will lose its appeal if you stick to the same routine every day, so mix it up. Use one brown and one white slice of bread. Cut a cute shape out of the sandwich (with a sandwich cutter like the image above), or even a different letter every day to spell out a word. This is one of the few times that playing with your food is encouraged!
#2 – Let Your Child Pick
This is a good way if you are running out of ideas. Simply let your child pick what he likes to say but this does not mean that he gets to pick pizza and crisps. You are working off of a basic balanced lunch, but everything within that structure is up for grabs. At the weekend, make a plan with your child for the week ahead. From the list above, you can let them decide — What kind of bread do you want this week? Would you rather a wrap? What kind of meat? Choose from these three. What fruit would you like? Choose from these four. You are limiting their selections to a pre-approved selection, but letting the child take the lead. When a child feels they have made the choice, they are more likely to accept it. There may be initial times that your child would reject your choices so you may have to go hard with them and meanwhile slowly expand on the choices to get them to accept.
#3 – Send Them A Message
So it is lunch time in school and your child takes out their lunchbox, opens it, and there’s a note from Mom. How exciting…what does it say? Why did the elephant cross the road…?
Something as simple as including a joke with your kid’s lunch is a great way to have them associate their lunch with fun times and something to be excited about. Alternatively, if your child isn’t a big fan of jokes, you could include a random fact about one of their favourite hobbies. Whatever works – the idea is simply to use the message as a way of putting a smile on your child’s face when they open their lunchbox, and not because they see sweets!
Try it yourself. Be creative, and always remember to keep it healthy and balanced. Remember, a healthy and happy lunch is a healthy and happy child!