Basic ingredients, small bites can make a big difference for finicky eaters
DAYTON — Packing a healthy lunch is relatively easy to do, but getting your child to eat that healthy lunch is another challenge entirely. State and nationwide nutrition initiatives such as the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act have prompted parents to seek out healthier foods for their families, said Angela Krile, media relations contact for Healthy Choices for Healthy Children. It’s a difficult task, Krile acknowledged, given that many parents are more time-crunched now than ever before.
“I think the food industry is responding to the need, and we’re finding healthier pre-packaged meals,” Krile said.
Monica A. Cengia, a registered and licensed dietitian in private practice in Centerville, said some simple changes — like switching from regular carrots to baby carrots — can win over even the pickiest of eaters.
“For young children, regular carrots can look like ‘big woody tree stumps,’” Cengia said. “A 4-or 5-year-old is not going to want to bite into a small tree trunk. And if it’s not easy to chew, that’s going to discourage the child.”
She said kids usually prefer fruits and vegetables that are sliced, cut up or cubed. When Cengia’s now-grown children were in school, she noticed a common theme: Often, food that was messy or required extra effort to eat was left in the lunch box.
“If I sent an orange with one, do you think they’d peel it and eat it? Probably not,” Cengia recalled. “I’d make four cuts at the top of the orange so they could peel it, and then I’d put it in two Ziplocs because it’s juicy.”
Marin Gilbert, a dietitian at Children’s Medical Center in Dayton, said parents often skimp on fruits and vegetables while overdoing junk foods.
“Parents think, ‘Oh, they need a sweet treat or cookie, and occasionally we’ll throw in a fruit or veggie,’ ” Gilbert said. “It’s OK to pack a sweet treat, but often kids are getting plenty throughout the school day, such as at a class party. Don’t feel like you have to pack a cookie or a brownie.”
Kim Hanks, 35, of Bellbrook found shish kabobs to be a novel way to get her 5-year-old son Tristan to eat a nutritious lunch. At the beginning of the school year, Tristan was nervous
Jake Westgerdes, 11, made this healthy wrap sandwich with chicken, carrots, broccoli, tortilla and Italian dressing.