Health Team

Make Your Child's Lunch Something to Anticipate

Posted August 13, 2007 3:00 p.m. EDT
Updated August 13, 2007 7:06 p.m. EDT

— Is your child more likely to eat the lunch you pack for them or trade it for something they like? There are clever and healthy ways to make your child's lunch something to anticipate.

According to Natalie Newell, a registered dietician at Rex Healthcare, if you have got a stash of old brown lunch bags for your kids, keep them stashed. Instead, she suggests using the insulated kind and include a frozen water bottle.

"(It's) something to keep that meat safe, because a lot of times kids now are taking yogurt, taking a sandwich that has meat on it. It's appropriate that it stay cool because it is so hot," she said.

By lunchtime, the thawed bottle of water will be a healthier option than juice.

"You do want to be mindful of that because they are high in calorie, even if they are 100 percent juice," Newell said.

Newell's advice on lunch meats is go to the deli and ask for low-fat, low-sodium slices or possibly use sliced meat from the previous night's dinner.

Instead of the traditional white bread most kids prefer, Newell said whole wheat is better or choose white wheat bread that looks white, but can be rich in fiber. She said to look on the label and not settle for anything less than three grams of fiber.

To kick it up a notch, Newell said to cut the sandwich with cookie cutter shapes, like some of the products kids like on store shelves.

"That's why a lot of these products that are geared toward kids sell," she said.

Another example of clever food marketing for kids is with "dipping sauces." Newell said that should be a clue for parents to include low-fat dressing or other mixtures with raw veggies.

"It's also great with fruit. Kids like dipping sauce. They like to dip things. It's fun," said Newell.

You can dip fruit in low-fat yogurt or mix fruit in the yogurt. She said to make sure your child gets some source of calcium in their meals whether in yogurt or a carton of low-fat milk.

Chips are a staple of most kids' lunches, so Newell said choose chips without trans fat. Baked chips or whole wheat crackers are the way to go.

Finally, make packing the lunch a fun time with your child.

"If you get them involved, they're more likely to eat what you pack them," Newell said.