I do realize that packing a school lunch has largely fallen out of favor. Instead, going through the school lunch line is the norm in modern times. But for a child that just won’t eat the food provided at school, a packed lunch is the only option. That is my situation. Despite going to a school that has a tremendous cafeteria, nothing seems to hit my daughter’s fancy.
We try to mix up the meals in her lunch bag, but finding enough healthy meal options for a picky eater is tough. Sometimes we do send meals that are not as healthy as I’d like. Here are some of the more healthy options we send.
Peanut Butter and “You Name It”
One of our biggest issues is that our daughter does not really like most meats (not enough to eat a full serving). So we often use peanut butter as a source of protein. We have tried almond butter which is much healthier but she just can not get over the taste difference. So, peanut butter is in her lunch box no less than 2 times a week.
When the peanut butter is sent in a sandwich, we always use a whole grain wheat bread and usually go lite on the jelly. She’s not really a sliced bread fan, so we might only send a sandwich once a week at the most.
We have really found that including the peanut butter with celery is a big hit and is healthier than the PB and J sandwich. Another great alternative is to send in a fresh cut apple slices with the peanut butter. We’ve tried sending in pear slices, but they just don’t go over quite as well.
While we occasionally send in heated can soups in a thermos, the sodium content is a deterrent for us. Left over home made soups are usually much healthier. You can control the sodium content when making your own soups. Likewise you can also ensure that your child gets a good mixture of vegetables, meat, and broth. From a practical standpoint, packing leftover soup is an awesome way to cut down on food waste.
Fresh Cut Fruit
Yes, we occasionally send in a pre-packed of fruit. However, we generally try to send in fresh cut fruit. It takes only a few minutes to cut up fresh fruit and this also cuts out the sugary liquid and any preservative that are added as part of the packaging process. Favorites in our daughter’s lunch box include: peaches, cantaloupe, watermelon, plums, apples, strawberries and blueberries. The unexpected benefit of fresh cut fruit is that your child may equate the fresh cut fruit with dessert, and fresh cut fruit is an incredibly healthy dessert.
Despite not being able to find too many proteins that she likes, our daughter is very much a vegetable eating machine. Raw vegetables at that. In addition to being a very healthy alternative for a lunch bag, vegetables are often a simple addition. Baby carrots are as simple as placing in a container and dropping them in to the lunch bag. Great vegetables to include in a lunch bag include: baby carrots, celery, broccoli florets, cauliflower and radishes. Granted, not all children will eat some of these vegetables. If your child will eat them you should be including them.
As I said earlier, we generally try to have fresh fruit serve as dessert. We are not big fans of sugary desserts, and less fans of sugar substitute desserts. That said, if we have had a cake or pie in the house recently for some occasion, we usually will send in a leftover portion for dessert in the lunch bag. This surely diverges from the healthy approach we try to take, but as an occasional treat it works for us.
We have such a picky eater though that we have to balance good healthy lunch choices with foods that she will eat so that she gets a balanced meal. There are many healthy alternatives out there that your child will like, you just have to find the right mix to get them a healthy meal if eating in the cafeteria is not working for you. Why fight their unique eating habits when you can work within them.
Kent Allen has run FoodClassics.com for nearly a decade. At FoodClassics, you can find great recipes, food tips, and even great deals on lunch boxes for your child’s lunch.