My kids have very different ideas when it comes to what they like to eat for their school lunches. My daughter is pretty easy going, but she has an exotic palate and likes me to include new things to try, and treats from cuisines all over the world. My son, on the other hand, is a creature of habit. He likes the same thing every day – and he never seems to get bored.
But I take lunchboxes pretty seriously. After all, at 5 days a week, 40 weeks at school per year, and 13 years of schooling, that’s 2600 lunches. That’s lots of opportunities to get it right and show my kids how to make healthy choices…or opportunities to get it very wrong and introduce dodgy eating habits for life.
Fresh vegetables are important for a balanced diet. Nine out of ten kids aren’t eating enough vegetables, so why not take this opportunity to add some veggies to their day rather than the impossible task of trying to fit the recommended five serves of vegetables all in at dinner?
The most important thing is to involve your kids in shopping for, choosing and preparing their lunches. That way you’ve got a much better chance of them actually being eaten.
If, like me, you can’t imagine anything worse than doing the rounds of the supermarket aisles with all of your children in tow, you can ask them what they’d like before you go, and add it to your shopping list. Then have a shopping roster, where one child comes with you each time you shop. This teaches them important life skills while also maintaining your sanity.
Ideas for veggies in lunchboxes include: baby carrots or cucumbers (any ‘baby’ vegetables are treated more sympathetically than regular-sized vegetables in my house), snow peas, capsicum strips, celery with cream cheese or peanut butter (if your school allows peanuts), cherry tomatoes, or corn on the cob.
You can include any of those veggies along with crackers, cheese, bread, boiled egg, meat, tinned fish, baked beans, or dip.
You can also get a little bit more inventive (or sneaky, if you prefer) and add veggies into some delicious treats, such as cheesy vegetable muffins or pancakes, frittata, mini quiches, pasta salad, dumplings, sushi, rice paper rolls, or sandwiches. One of my son’s favourite sandwiches is grated carrot, grated cheese and sultanas – which at least makes me feel like I’m getting some vegetables into him.
For a long time I tried to encourage my son to be more open to new foods, and to experiment a little bit, but each time I try to push that agenda, his lunchbox comes back full and he comes home hungry. So I’ve learned to choose my battles. If he wants to eat orange cherry tomatoes every day for fruit break, who am I to argue? And if he likes a grated carrot, cheese and sultana sandwich every lunchtime, then great.
I’m sure some day he will open himself up to new culinary experiences. And at least for now, I know he’s getting a couple of serves of vegetables in his lunchbox every day.