Back to school = what’s for lunch?

My kids are kind of picky. I think most kids are really. It has to do with the fact that what goes into their mouths is one of the only areas of their lives that they have any power or control over. Think about it. Parents and/or school administrators decide their schedules, the bulk of their activities, parents heavily influence their clothing options and their bedtimes. But as any parent soon will discover if pushed to their breaking point, you cannot get a kid to eat something he or she doesn’t want to eat.

So they push back. They say they’re not hungry when you know they are. They say they don’t like green beans when just yesterday they ate a huge serving of them. It’s all too familiar. So the way I deal with this is to really go with what they like (that day/week) and give them as much choice in the matter as is nutritionally acceptable as a parent.

As you may have guessed, we’re pretty strict in the health foods department. We don’t have soda in the house, nor any candy (dark chocolate is not candy–it is a health food!). We bake delicious but healthy cookies on occasion, but really don’t have a lot in the way of desserts or sweets. At dinner, I put out several vegetable dishes that they’ve recently said they liked and hope they’ll choose one or two to eat that night. Even so, I have seen my share of entire lunches come home untouched.

Last year I bought these totally cool bento boxes and I fill them with small portions of yummy foods. Again, lots of choices. My son doesn’t like sandwiches but he will eat a whole wheat tortilla smeared with barbeque sauce and stuffed with grilled chicken and shredded carrots. Last year, he wanted just slices of plain chicken and salami. That’s fine–I filled one of the large sections with the meat. Another large section has a big bunch of grapes, or slices of apple or orange circles, like they serve in my daughter’s favorite Thai restaurant. The small sections get approximately 5 barbeque potato chips (my one junk food allowance, but no eating of the chips any other time) and one cookie in the other for dessert. In the side slot I stick a (real) fruit roll , a granola bar, or a few peanut butter filled pretzels.

It takes a little effort but I swear, if you give a lot of choices of healthy things you think they’ll go for, then there is no power struggle because they feel they’re in control. That and education on what is a good food choice and why are great strategies for making sure your kids grow up healthy.

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Edgar - April 21, 2012

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