Treat kids to lunches that meet all needs

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - YOU AT YOUR BEST -

School lunch may seem like a rel­a­tively easy con­cept for par­ents to mas­ter. How­ever, day in and day out, en­ter­pris­ing moms and dads grow anx­ious over what to put into kids’ lunch boxes or bags.

Par­ents have foods they want their kids to eat, and then there are foods their grade-school­ers will ac­tu­ally con­sider. Schools may also place lim­i­ta­tions on what kids can bring to school due to al­ler­gies or school rules on sweets ver­sus healthy foods. Then there’s the pack­ag­ing it­self. Par­ents may weigh the bene ts of ev­ery­thing from clever ac­ces­sories to eco-friendly ma­te­ri­als.

Re­mov­ing school lunch stress is easy. Once these steps are con­quered, send­ing chil­dren off to school with ac­cept­able meals be­comes that much eas­ier.

Foods

Keep a run­ning list of must-have foods to stock the pantry. This will make it eas­ier when it’s time to go shop­ping. Picky eaters may re­turn again and again to fa­mil­iar com­fort foods. As long as the child is get­ting enough vi­ta­mins and grow­ing, there should be lit­tle is­sue in let­ting him and her eat the same foods day in and day out. Be­cause par­ents can­not po­lice what their chil­dren eat at school, it’s bet­ter to de­vote time to in­tro­duc­ing new foods dur­ing break­fast or din­ner.

In­volve kids in some of the food de­ci­sions, es­pe­cially since they are the ones eat­ing the lunch at school. Cer­tain foods may not keep well or be­come less ap­peal­ing af­ter sit­ting in back­packs un­til lunchtime. Re­spect kids’ in­put and try to make some changes ac­cord­ingly.

Re­stric­tions

Re­searchers have es­ti­mated that food al­ler­gies af­fect one in ev­ery 13 chil­dren un­der the age of 18 in the United States alone. That equates to two in ev­ery class­room. The group Food Al­lergy Re­search & Ed­u­ca­tion says eight foods ac­count for the ma­jor­ity of all re­ac­tions peanuts, tree nuts, soy, milk, eggs, wheat, sh and shell sh. Par­ents should be cog­nizant of com­mon food al­ler­gies and be con­sid­er­ate of other kids in the class­room who may have al­ler­gies by lim­it­ing some of the most com­mon al­lergy-as­so­ci­ated foods in their chil­dren’s lunches.

Pack­ag­ing

The way foods are pre­sented can im­prove the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Just ask pro­fes­sional chefs who go to great lengths on cre­ative “plat­ing” in restau­rants. Chil­dren who are fussy about foods touch­ing might en­joy one of the eco­nom­i­cal (and eco-friendly) de­signs of re­us­able bento boxes, which sep­a­rate foods into dif­fer­ent sec­tions. They also help par­ents pack per­fect por­tion sizes for health­ier eat­ing habits.

Snack and food con­tain­ers now come in col­or­ful and clever de­signs that ap­peal to the toy-lover in most kids. Also, lunch gear man­u­fac­tur­ers are think­ing out­side the sand­wich to of­fer pouches and bag­gies that are leak-proof so that smooth­ies, soups and yo­gurts can be en­joyed dur­ing lunch, too.

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