lunch boxes

We all want our kids to eat as healthfully as possible. We plan and pack a lunch that will fill them with energy and give them all of the vitamins their growing bodies require.

And then we hear that our little darling traded her veggie pita pocket to her friend for a bag of Doritos. Aargh.

Salty and sugary snack foods are abundant in school cafeterias. And they’re tempting! They’re colorful, kind of fun and, well, everyone else is eating them. So, we have to work a bit harder to make sure that our kids eat the lunch we pack, rather than trading it away for something else. Here are some tips for lunches your kids will want to keep all to themselves.

Make Lunch Together

I’ve always found that my kids eat more vegetables when they are veggies we’ve grown together in our own garden. The same principle applies here. Kids love feeling like they are an important part of day to day life, and that includes their lunch. So start getting your kids involved in making their lunches. Once they have a sense of ownership and see the work that goes into packing a tasty, healthy lunch, they’ll appreciate it a bit more and will be much more likely to eat it.

Give Your Kids Lunch Options

No, this doesn’t mean let them pick whatever they want (though I’m sure they’d love that!). It simply means offering a few healthy choices for them to pick from. Think up, for example, three different healthy sandwich options, and let them pick which one they want. Same with the snacks and beverage. This way, you both win. You’re sure they’re eating healthfully, and they have had a voice in what they get to eat.

Snazzy Sandwiches

A plain old sandwich, sliced in half, is perfectly nutritious, but not exactly exciting. If your child is not excited about lunch, sometimes all it takes is adding a little pizazz to their sandwich. Consider using cookie cutters to cut their sandwiches into fun shapes, or sending rolled sandwiches or mini pita pockets instead of a traditional sandwich.

Go Sandwich-Free

Sometimes, you just don’t feel like a sandwich. How many of us have gone out to dinner and only ordered appetizers, because we liked having just a bit of this or that, and didn’t feel like a whole entrée? Kids are often the same way. So if you’re finding that your child isn’t eating the sandwich you packed, consider packing several healthy nibbles instead of a sandwich, such as carrot sticks, cucumber coins, fruit salad, yogurt, maybe a granola bar and some milk. In addition to healthy status, it’s unlikely your child will be bored when faced with such variety.

Dippable is Always Good

This is my carnal rule of feeding children: The more they’re able to dip something, the more likely they are to eat it! There’s just something about dipping that makes eating fun. Consider packing homemade pita chips with hummus, veggies with homemade ranch dip, or cut up fruit with a yogurt dip. They might share, but they won’t trade!

With a little planning and a bit of creativity, you can make a lunch your kid will eat, and actually enjoy. Have fun with it, get your child involved, and enjoy the fact that you know they’re eating healthy food, even when they’re surrounded by junk food.

Image: Dee Adams