Back to school: packing a healthy lunchbox
By Noor H. Salem
With school right around the corner, it becomes extremely difficult for many parents to maintain healthy eating habits for their children. Many kids are not able to comprehend the difference between a healthy food item and one full of pure junk. It becomes even more challenging when they go to school and see all the junky snacks in the lunchboxes of their friends, sold at school lunch lines, or in vending machines all around them. So how can you get your child to eat a more wholesome diet while maintaining a tight schedule yourself?
First off, get your child involved and educated. I can’t emphasize enough how well this tip works with children. A child is more likely to bond with that apple if they grocery shopped for it themselves. Allow your kids to aid in writing up the grocery list, and come with you to buy groceries as well. Putting that apple in the lunchbox will bring back a memory for them. Have your child watch you cook, and if they’re old enough get them involved in the kitchen too. Whether it’s washing vegetables or stirring the soup, kids will enjoy the process. If you happen to have a garden, let your child do the planting, watering, and even picking once the vegetables grow. My youngest sister, Layan, was four when we had a garden. Although the weather is not the best for gardening, many vegetables grow quit well, like zucchini, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, and even peppers. She would be the one to help my dad plant the seeds, and would be excited to go out and water them daily. Once they grew, she had a gardening basket in which she’d run out and pick whatever she sees ripe. Allowing your child to see fruits and vegetables in their whole form is education within itself.
Secondly, don’t procrastinate; prepare ahead. Not being prepared means a higher chance of making a bad choice when hunger comes in or time is tight. Steam extra vegetables at dinner the night before, and pack them for both you and your kids. Add some healthy proteins, and good quality grains like quinoa, organic brown rice pastas, or rice. This will beat any peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which comes with many ingredients you might not like. In fact, the majority of peanut butters contain hydrogenated oils. If you don’t see a layer of oil on top of your jar of peanut butter when purchasing, then it’s not just peanuts in the jar. Make some clean-ingredient muffins and allow your child to find treats in their lunchbox. This will be much better than them just finding broccoli cuts and fruit. It will replace the need of sweets they see at school, or remove the urge of wanting the same prepackaged brownies full of 35 ingredients in the lunchbox of their best friend. If your child loves macaroni and cheese, don’t ban them from it completely. Take time to make them a healthier version yourself. I make homemade pumpkin macaroni and cheese, since the idea of processed cheese and bleached macaroni just doesn’t make sense to me. Feeding a child empty calories, food full of calories with no nutritional value, isn’t a great choice. Your child is still developing, and it’s important they get sufficient vitamins and minerals daily. Make a big batch of hummus, which is an extremely healthy protein, and have it as a snack or side for your child. There are so many ways to prepare; you just have to take initiative.
Next, don’t force eating healthy upon your children. Be an example for them, and like everything else, they will imitate you. Also, be sure to try and keep the junk out of sight. If you have a bowl of color-dye-full M &M candies or chips on the table at home, no doubt about that they’ll be coming back and forth for some. Instead, let them grow and familiarize with seeing fresh fruit bowls, and platters of cut up fresh vegetables. Smoothies are fun to make while letting the kids get involved, and a great way for them to get a serving or two of fruit. Adding a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach will not ruin the taste, but will undoubtedly boost the nutritional value. Try smoothies and hard boiled eggs for breakfast, and see a difference in your child’s day. It’s definitely a brighter choice than sugary cereal full of food dyes and artificial flavorings.
So, being prepared, educating your child, and getting them involved are all great ways to keep your child’s health in check during a busy school year.