Making sure our kids eat healthy foods has rightfully become a national obsession and I’m sure like most parents you want healthy lunch ideas to help your kids stay motivated, energized and reaching their true potential.
There are some really outstanding reasons to make sure our kids eat healthy, and these are two of the most important.
1. Studies have shown that children who eat a healthy lunch are more motivated in school and do better overall. This is what we all want for our children and it’s great that we have the power as parents to easily make this happen!
2. Childhood obesity is a growing problem in North America: 5 million youth ages 6-17 are clinically obese. By introducing your children to healthy eating early on, you are giving them the gift of a lifetime of health!
Of course, there are many other reasons that I won’t list. I guess if you are reading this you are already convinced of the value of providing healthy food and snacks for your family!
So what are some tips to help you provide healthy meal options for your children?
1. Well, first have healthy snacks around the house. Children are natural herbivores and if they don’t have healthy snacks available, they will look for unhealthy options. In fact, I suggest that you clean out your pantry and try to eliminate any unhealthy snacks, so the kids can’t see them and you’re not tempted to “give in” at a stressed moment.
*Some great tips for healthy snacks are:
– Hummus and vegetable sticks
– Salsa and refried beans mixed together to create a great snack or topping for toasted pita triangles
– Toasted pita triangles and low-fat ranch dressing
– Slices of sweet and crunchy vegetables such as carrots and red peppers
All of these are quick, easy to make, and keep in the fridge ready for when you need them.
2. Another key healthy eating idea is to prepare foods that are easy for your children to eat AND easy for you to prepare. You are most likely a busy person, so don’t push yourself too hard, there are many great, quick and easy options available.
*Easy Tip: The wraps are easy and the kids love them. Try adding some new ingredients this way. My favorites are the Baked Tofu, the Peanut Butter and Pea Wrap and the Turkey Breast, Mozzarella, Cucumber, Avocado and Alfalfa Sprouts Wrap. Both mix ingredients that the children will have tried before and new ones. Try swapping the peanut butter for cashew or almond butter for a change.
3. Try to prepare as far in advance as possible. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to come home from work and put 100% effort into your kids’ meals or preparing large batches of food first thing in the morning. So pick a time when you can give it your full attention, and prepare a few days in advance. Some things, like sauces and dressings, will keep for a while, so find out when is a good time to start cooking! When you can cook is also a great indication of what kind of lunches to prepare. If you really only have free time on the weekends for something complicated, choose things that will hold up and need very little additional preparation first thing in the morning.
*Tip: Many meals can be frozen, which is a good suggestion for after school meals. Cooking a large casserole, soup or stew and portioning into bags for the following week is always a great idea. For school lunches, try to prepare the ingredients a few days ahead. Cooked chicken and turkey breast will keep for 3-4 days. You can also make dips like ranch dressing 3-4 days ahead. The tuna mayonnaise will also keep, but I suggest you keep it well sealed as it can make your fridge smell!
4. Try to keep your child involved in the healthy eating process whenever possible. If your child hates sweet things (unlikely, but sometimes!), don’t force it, go for salty lunches instead and vice versa. You want to introduce your children to new types of foods and eating experiences and this can be an enjoyable process for everyone. Choosing things they really can’t stand will be like hitting a brick wall every time they eat.
5. A good tip for children to start new experiences with food is to control portions. Mix a small amount of the new food together with something you know they like and slowly introduce a variety of foods in this way. Just remember that it’s okay if your little one doesn’t like everything, I know I don’t and I’m sure you do too! For example, if you try to add avocado and celery to a tuna mayonnaise salad.
It’s easy to find great healthy lunch ideas your kids will love if you follow these rules: Keep it simple, don’t try too hard, get your little one’s input, and introduce things slowly. You’ll be a family full of healthy eaters in no time!