Lunch is the perfect way for young children to refuel for the afternoon and get the nutrition necessary to grow, learn and be active. Making time to feed your child lunch does not need to be challenging. Below are a few tips to help you (or your child) prepare tasty, nutritious, FUN and convenient lunches.
Keep it Small
Young children with little appetites require small, but frequent meals to get the necessary nutrition needed for growth, activity and learning. By planning structured meals and snacks, your child will come to the table ready to eat.
Trust Your Child’s Natural Instincts
Your child’s appetite will guide the need for more or less food. Encourage them to save leftover food as an afternoon snack.
Promote Food Exploration
Children learn though touching, smelling, seeing and even playing with their food. Occasionally, plan creative and fun meals and snacks. Use food for decoration, make fun shapes using cookie cutters and name your food using fun names. For many children, food exploration allows a child to determine if a food is safe to taste and eventually eat.
Encourage New Food Choices
Pair your child’s favorite foods with unfamiliar and less-liked foods. Don’t worry if they decide not to eat it, but feel free to try again another day. Studies suggest that up to 10-15 exposures may be necessary before a specific food is accepted
Involve Your Child
Making lunch with your child will further encourage healthy, yet appreciated, food choices. Regardless of whether your child will eat at home or at school, try making lunch the night before to be sure you have all the time you need to plan the perfect lunch!
Top It, Wrap It, Stuff It to Make Lunch Fun
Top your favorite whole grain cracker with a variety of toppings including lean deli meat, low fat cheese, diced & sliced fruits and vegetables, dips and sauces. Serve hot or cold.
Wraps offer endless creation possibilities. Fill your favorite wrap with a variety of wholesome ingredients including shredded vegetables, sliced deli meats, low fat cheeses, hummus, chicken, tuna or egg salad, nut butters and fruit.
Stuff your favorite whole grain pita bread with pizza sauce, diced vegetables and cheese for a hot or cold pizza pocket. Stuff fresh celery sticks with tuna, chicken or egg salad. Top with raisins and serve with sliced cheese.
About the Author
Stacy Lofton is the Senior Registered Dietitian/ Corporate Dietitian for Knowledge Universe, the parent company of KinderCare. With over 13 years of experience as a registered dietician, Stacy is responsible for the planning and execution of KinderCare’s corporate menu feeding more than 250,000 young children each day. To ensure each and every child is provided with healthy and nutritious meals, Stacy works closely with leading manufacturers and food service distributors/ purchasing groups on the development of products unique to early childhood nutrition. Stacy received a Bachelors of Science (BS) in Nutrition and Food Management from Oregon State and Masters of Science (MS) in Health Promotion from the University of North Texas. She completed her Dietetic Internship at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX.