It’s hard to ignore the universal push for healthier eating habits for kids. From Michelle Obama to Jamie Oliver—even McDonald’s—everyone is talking about the need for better foods in our children’s diets. One of the biggest meals in need of a nutritious makeover is, not surprisingly, school lunches.
It’s difficult to find fault in the healthy school lunch movement, but when you have a picky eater who eats the same four things, putting it into practice can be a challenge when your child only eats 3 to 4 foods, none of which are nutritious.
So how can you improve what you to in your child’s lunch sack? Here are a few easy suggestions almost any kid will allow.
Start with the bread.
By now it’s common knowledge that processed white breads are devoid of nutritional value. Avoid loaves whose ingredients that start with “wheat flour” or “enriched bleached flour,” and opt for ones that are 100 percent whole-wheat flour or grain. If your child is open to adventure, so if you can talk them into a wrap or pita. You’d probably laugh at me if I even suggested lettuce, right?
Watch for hidden sugar.
The go-to for my son is yogurt, so I was incredibly dismayed when kids’ yogurts landed on a “worst foods for your kids” list thanks to all of the sugar in them. While companies like Dannon have made a move to reduce the amount in their children’s yogurt lines, many brands are still packed with added sugars (flavors like cotton candy are usually a good giveaway). Dr. Sears has a useful guide for buying healthier yogurt for your children. I’ve had success with Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and berries.
Another source of added sugar in your children’s diet is juice. Juice boxes, sports drinks and even many flavored waters are laden with sugar. Instead, encourage your children to drink milk or a milk alternative like soy or almond milk. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with water. If your child likes something bubbly with their meal, you can make “soda” with seltzer water and a splash of juice.
Processed snack foods may be an easy solution for after-lunch treats, but they’re probably not the healthiest option. Fruit and vegetables are obvious winners, but what if you’re kid won’t eat them? Popcorn is always a crowd-pleaser, as are smoothies. Or trick them with a homemade treat, like healthy oatmeal cookies.