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Think Outside The Lunchbox

Is your child really eating the lunch you packed or something else?

Millions of parents around the world pack what they consider to be a healthy lunch for their child.  The question is, “Is your child eating their packed lunch or something else?”

As a teacher, I can tell you first hand that during café duty, I caught kids red-handed routinely going to the trash barrel and throwing away a half-eaten sandwich or pulling out the meat and tossing out the bread.

After probing a bit to find out why kids threw away a perfectly good-looking sandwich, they would either claim that the bread tasted weird or felt soggy.  Others would say that they didn’t like the sandwich.

This may seem disheartening to hear that your daily effort to pack a nutritious lunch for your child may have gone into the garbage, literally.  In my sleuth work, I asked these kids why they didn’t tell their parents, usually Mom, that they wanted something different to eat for lunch.

Popular responses included:

“Mom makes me whatever is available.”

“I don’t get to choose what to eat.”

“I like trading my food with others.”

“I don’t know.”

So what are kids really eating at lunch?  My undercover work as a lunchroom spy reports that kids are trading fancy-looking crackers for chocolate chip cookies or potato chips for pretzels.  I’ve found that foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat get swapped out more so than the typical carrots in a bag or a piece of fruit.

Here is something that you can do to spice things up a bit.  Instead of packing a sandwich in your child’s lunch every day, try including some leftovers from a dinner the night before, especially if your child enjoyed the meal.  Make a colorful salad that includes some chicken or turkey, slices of fruit, and vegetables.  You can put it in a tightly sealed container in the fridge and have it available for a couple of days.  Don’t put any dressing on it as that will alter the taste, texture and the freshness of the salad.

A way to make your child more accountable for their lunch is to get them involved in packing their own lunch early on.  You can provide healthy options to choose from.  Limit the prepackaged snacks, desserts and processed sugars that your child eats as this adversely affects their blood sugar levels which can result in excess weight gain.  Some children are highly sensitive to sugar where their attention span, behavior, mood and ability to focus and concentrate deteriorate with excess sugar consumption.

Replace fruit juices that are comprised of simple sugars and no fiber with flavored water.  Instead of soggy bread, try toasting it first.  Rather than a daily apple, try mixing it up with some grapes.  The important point is to set your child up for success by getting him/her enticed and held accountable to eating a lunch that has a good balance of complex carbs, fiber, protein and healthy fats.

Read more posts by Douglas Haddad, JenningsWire blogger.