Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How I Made My Children's Lunches Healthier

I went grocery shopping maybe 3 days ago. In addition to whatever I was picking up for dinner that night, I also bought a bag of apples, and a container each of strawberries and raspberries for my kids' lunches. This morning I realized there is 1 apple and only a few of each berry left. I almost complained and got upset that they blew through the fruit so fast, but then I stopped myself. How can I possibly complain that my kids are choosing to eat the healthy foods on their own? I can't. I would absolutely prefer them to sneak into refrigerator the fruit than to sneak into the pantry for chips.

Kids love junk food. and mine are no exception. If I stocked my pantry with unhealthy food, I bet you  can guess what they'd eat. I knew that there are ways to change your children's lunches and after school snacks without starting World War III. I remembered that when I was pregnant the only craving that I had was sugar, but instead of hitting the junk food isle of the supermarket, I hit the produce section. This is how I changed the lunchboxes and after school snacks in my house.

I spoke to the kids about my desire for them to eat healthier lunches.  On the first trip to the grocery store that followed our discussion, I let them pick out some of the fruits that they enjoyed.  You'd be surprised to find out all the healthy things your children already like. I also purchased a set of small food containers that hold only a few ounces each. This was because I wanted to do away with Ziploc baggies that just get tossed in the trash and also because I needed something that would protect fruit like raspberries from being squished and subsequently spilled all over the rest of their lunch. This is also a good portion regulator. I didn't want to throw the kids into something 100% different so I agreed to one "unhealthy" snack provided they use the containers. This makes it so that even if they take cookies it's only 2. I should also say that every effort is made to only buy products for them if I can understand the ingredients without use of a dictionary.

I have 2 kids with a 4 year age gap. They are pretty great when they aren't waking me up in the morning screaming at each other. I've been lucky with them in that they have always been pretty great eaters, so the transition was pretty easy. I've always been able to get them to at least try new things knowing they won't love everything they eat. Since they aren't going to be in charge of themselves for at least another 8-10 years, I also don't give them a choice.

Born to a Puerto Rican father and a Czech mother who grew up in Brazil and into a navy family, I was destined to try new foods. With that said, I'm pretty positive that I was a picky eater (at least in part) too.  I would order spaghetti when everyone else was ordering slices of pizza.  On the soccer field, I had bananas when the rest of my team was eating oranges. What kid these days doesn't like pizza?! On the other hand, I remember eating sushi when kids still thought sushi was disgusting. Kids change. I grew out of my pickiness and I have known many adults that have done the same.

I've been vegetarian for 16 years (vegan at times) and at one time or another, my husband and children have joined in as well. Needless to say we probably do more vegetables in my house than many other families I know. Despite the fact that being vegetarian limits my ability to try everything, I love trying foods I've never had. I think the best thing anyone can do is expose not only your kids, but also yourself to as much of a variety as you can. You never know what you will end up liking.

I didn't start this post with the intention to be about picky eaters and I do realize that every situation is different. It was meant to be a comment merely about the eating habits of my own kids who like many others would come home from school and choose junk food for snack. The moral of the story is that kids are creatures of habit, it's up to us to change the habits we don't like. If your child is picky eater, keep trying. Things change. Just don't forget that you are in charge ;) Oh, and don't complain if you find that the fruit you're buying is getting eaten it a little faster than your wallet would like.

No comments:

Post a Comment