Sunday, January 17, 2010

Good Parenting: Healthy Lunch Box Challenge

Ahhh... the good ole lunch box / snack-box challenge. And yes, if your good parenting then you know it is exactly that - a challenge! Oh sure it's easy if your just gonna throw any ole edible item and beverage in there, but if you are attempting to provide a healthy, yet delicious snack or lunch for your child, with the hopes he won't trade it for someone else's junk food, then you know the constraints of the situation.

A child's energy, attention span and stamina at school depends much on his nutrition. Good parenting means giving your child a healthy breakfast and lunch or snack, which is just as important as being in a good school and having a good teacher. Just as important as hygiene, and just as important as learning to be a nice person. Unfortunately not all parents take the time to ensure a nutritious meal and send their kids to school with a box full of junk, making it harder for the other kids to be interested in their healthy snack, which furthers to a parents frustration when the healthy lunch or snack box comes home untouched.

Good parenting means recognizing that it isn't always a good idea to solely rely on school cafeteria lunches, because although the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says school lunches should provide one-third of a child's nutrition needs, meeting caloric needs alone is not necessarily nutritious enough. Calorie dense makes no sense if the meal is not also healthy.

Tips To A Well Balanced Lunch

A lunch consisting of a lean meat, whole grain, low-fat dairy product and fruit and/or vegetable is a well-balanced, healthy lunch. 1-2 to of these is good for a balanced healthy snack. Packing a sandwich with lean meat or tuna fish is good – but making that sandwich with whole grain bread, a good source of fiber, is even better. However, unless from very early on a child is accustomed to eating brown bread, kids usually become totally uninterested in their sandwich if it's made with brown bread. A good idea is to start off slowly but keeping the healthy sandwich on white bread but making sure you have also packed their favorite fruit to compensate for the brown bread. Include a few carrots and cucumbers as well, or their veg of choice that is packable. Tell your kids that if they don't want the brown bread they have to eat a fruit and veg along with their sandwich.

Pack a bottle of water instead of juice boxes. Most juice boxes are high in sugar. However, water will keep a child hydrated without the sugar rush, extra calories and a lowered immune system. Water is also beneficial to the skin, as well many other parts of the body. If your child insists on the juice then dilute the juice in a water bottle.

Involve your child in the decision making of his lunch or snack. This helps to alleviate swapping his food with others. Use the opportunity to chat about healthy eating but try and make it fun and entertaining and not like a classroom experience.

Help keep your child from using his milk money for junk food by packing a dessert. You can satisfy your child's sweet need with tiny amounts of junk food mix in with healthy foods. A small amount of M&M's with trail mix, one cookie with yogurt, fruits topped with raisins and a little caramel or chocolate sauce or dipping sauce. Try making muffins or cookies with pureed vegetable in the ingredients.

So if your going to make a lunch or snack box, take a few extra minutes to make it count toward your child's well being and functionality through out the day. It will take some time for your child to get used to his new foods so use the suggestions above as well as be creative and before you know it your child will be accustomed to his new healthy friends and coming home with an empty lunch or snack box. As a parent you will have earned an "A" in parenting for the healthy lunch box challenge.

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