Let’s be real – it’s extremely difficult to get your child to choose your homemade snacks and lunches over the Superhero and Disney Princess prepackaged meals you can buy from your neighborhood market. After all, most of the other kids in their class have it, they want to fit in with their peers, and it’s hard to pass up the cool looking packaging and fun colored sugary foods, right? On top of that, parents tend to stress about what to make and whether or not their child is just going to throw it away because they really want the other stuff.
So what do you have to lose? Try these four simple steps to make snacks and lunches fun for kids AND easier on parents.
How to Make Lunch Time More Fun
Get kids involved!
Allow your children to help. Have them go shopping with you and pick from your pre-approved list of items. Avoid letting them have a “free for all” at the store – they’ll go straight for the character items and colorful boxes of junk foods. Instead, give them a list of fresh fruits, veggies, dairy products, nuts, nitrate-free deli meats, whole grain crackers and breads to choose from. Then when you get to the store, you’ll shop the outer perimeter of the store with your list and let them choose from the items on the list. If they find something equally healthy that’s not already on the list, be flexible and add it to your cart for variety.
Provide lots of options to choose from.
Kids enjoy getting to pick out their foods. Start by sectioning out your foods on your counter into groups of proteins, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and dairy or dairy substitute. As they build their snack or lunch, have them pick one thing from each food group to build their meal.
Another option would be to make a “trail mix buffet bar.” With this option they would mix and match from the various ingredients you set out and make their very own trail mix recipe they enjoy best!
Make packaging eye catching, fun, and colorful.
Let kids pick out a couple of fun lunch boxes or containers they find interesting. Picking containers that will keep portion sizes in mind is also helpful.
Use colorful silicone muffin cups and plastic wraps, or cookie cutter shaped slices of foods. It’s an easy way to create a fun presentation in the lunchbox too! Keep in mind, you are competing with the cool packaged colorful junk foods they see – be creative and make homemade packaging fun too!
Don’t give up!
It may take several tries for your child to acquire a taste for the new foods they are trying. Try variations of the foods, mix tiny portions of a new food blended in with other ingredients, or include healthy dipping sauces or sandwich condiments to help mask the new flavor aversion. Over time, their “wisdom of the body” will begin to crave the healthier, more nutritious foods!
Here are a few ideas to add to your back-to-school menu plan!
Healthy Snacks & Lunch Ideas
Cored apples sliced into 1/4in chips. Spread your favorite nut butter, sprinkle with sunflower and chia seeds and drizzle with raw honey. It’s messy, but so very good! Top the apple with another slice and make it like a sandwich to decrease the mess.
“Sushi” Bento Box
This kid-friendly “sushi” is made with nitrate-free deli meat and pepperoni, with a cucumber stick in the middle for crunch. Roll it up and slice it into bite size rolls. Place in silicone muffin liners to help them hold shape.
Pack a pair of kid’s chop sticks along in their box and just wait for the praise when your child comes home talking about how everyone at school wanted their lunch! Use a variety of ingredients for the sushi rolls, use your imagination and lots of colorful foods, you may find you even look forward to making this one!
Pickle Wrap Bento Box
Pickle wraps are dill pickle spears wrapped with 2-3 slices of nitrate free deli ham, held together with a toothpick. (Use caution with small children and toothpicks use snack baggies for them instead)
The raspberries are the real superstar in this one: organic raspberries stuffed with mini chocolate chips and packed in a small condiment cup with a lid to keep them from getting smooshed. How you pack lunch is important, if everything is mixed up, soggy, or smashed, your kids will not eat it and all of your time and money could be wasted!
Parent Pro-Tip: remember to take pictures of your meals when you make them and save on your phone for those times when you can’t come up with any ideas. The school season schedule can be hard, plan ways now to make it easier on yourself! You can find even more inspiration on Instagram searching for #healthykidslunches.
More Great Local Back to School Info
- RCM’s Local Back to School Guide
- All Things Educational in Huntsville
- Homeschooling Guide to North AL
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sandy Robinson is a Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Owner of LeanWell Health & Wellness. As a local mom & entrepreneur, she has a passion for whole-family nutrition and knows firsthand how tough it is to provide a healthy lifestyle in a busy world.
This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated with current information.
As a hyper-local website focused on all aspects of parenting in and around Huntsville, AL, and the Tennessee Valley, Rocket City Mom occasionally asks local parents to submit their stories for publication. This is part of our continual effort to represent varied viewpoints and experiences on our site. However, these articles should not be seen as necessarily expressing the views of Rocket City Mom Media Group, LLC.