One way to make sure that kids eat well both at home and elsewhere is to make them healthy packed lunches.
How children learn to eat depends on what we teach them. They need to know from an early age how to make the best choices for their health and growth.
Eating healthily doesn’t mean missing out on tasty recipes, of course. A healthy diet has plenty of variety and the right balance of foods and nutrients.
Healthy packed lunch ideas for your children
- Tortellini pasta salad (cook pasta, add peas and a little pesto sauce)
- Dried fruits
- 1 peach
- Cottage cheese and grape jelly sandwich on a sweet cinnamon bun. Add a few grapes.
- 1 mandarin orange
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich on wholewheat bread
- Low-fat fruit yogurt
- 1 bunch of red grapes
- Soup (with skinless chicken, pasta or noodles of your choice, peas and carrot)
- Wholewheat crackers
- Chicken rolls: wrap pieces of grilled chicken breast and carrot in iceberg lettuce leaves.
- 1 mandarin orange
- Grilled chicken or turkey sandwich with lettuce
- 1 bunch of fresh grapes
- Vegetable roll in a corn tortilla. Add their favorite ingredients.
- 1 medium-sized apple.
- Sandwich with hard-boiled egg, grilled cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and a little olive oil on wholewheat bread. Include a big slice of melon on the side.
- Burrito with roasted chicken, peas, cherry tomatoes and corn tortillas. Add slices of fresh watermelon on the side.
- Chicken salad: pieces of chicken, mayonnaise, lettuce, cucumber. Add guacamole or tomato sauce to taste. Pack a sweet orange, too.
- Brown rice with chilli beef
- Tortilla chips or nachos
- 1 bunch of green grapes
- Toasted bread with chicken and cheddar cheese
- 1 medium-sized apple
- Low-sodium ham in pita bread with pieces of squash, carrot and vinaigrette
- 3 ounces of dark chocolate
- Sandwich with lettuce, tomato, turkey or bacon, wholewheat bread and mayonnaise.
- Carrot and celery sticks with sauce.
- 1 pear
Tips for preparing healthy packed lunches
Find the balance
Balance is key to healthy packed lunches, so try to make sure there is a little bit of each food group on the menu each day. Lunches should contain carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, fruit and a source of healthy fat.
You can’t always include all that in a single meal, but try to cover all the food groups most days. This way, your child will get all the energy and nutrition they need.
Give them choices
You are the adult in charge, and you have the final say. But you can give your child a choice too, by making a list of packed lunch options and letting them choose from these.
Lead by example: if you ask your kids to make healthy choices at lunchtime, you should do so, too.
Make sure your containers are kid-friendly
Particularly with little ones, make sure they don’t have trouble opening the lunchbox or container.
When you buy a lunchbox, get your child to try it out to make sure they can open it without any difficulty.
Check that your child eats their lunch at school
Sometimes, children don’t eat the packed lunches that their parents prepare. It’s natural for you to be worried about this.
If you notice this happening, reconsider the portions you’re giving them. Sometimes it’s necessary to reduce what you put in their lunchbox to a more manageable portion.
Get them to help you make healthy packed lunches
If you have time, ask for their help to prepare or pack their lunches. When your child is involved in the process of cooking and food preparation, they’ll feel more independent and develop healthier eating habits.
Over time, they’ll learn to eat the foods that are best for them, and to put into practice what you teach them.
Teach them to follow a routine
When your children are at school, you won’t be able to tell them what to do and when to do it.
What you can do, though, is establish a clear routine at home, which they can also apply elsewhere.
Show them that mealtimes are just for eating, and that games can wait for a few minutes.
Try to avoid processed food with artificial ingredients in your children’s packed lunches. Swap flavored soda for natural juice, and avoid candy and chocolates.