If you think, pitching a multi-million dollar deal to a room full of customers is hard; you have never really tried to convince a school-going kid to agree to a healthy lunch.
With all your experience, you can still manage the former, but the latter is an on-going battle for at least 10 years!
God bless the schools that provide healthy lunch as a part of the facilities. But for the rest of us, this is a daily drama.
The first step, in this case would be not to lose your mind over it. Patience is a virtue especially if you are going to be doing this for a long time.
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On a weekend, invest some time with your kids making a list of interesting kids lunch box ideas they like – much like a brainstorming session at work. Once the list is done, separate them into healthy and junk (yes, you will have a lot of these).
Put this list up on the fridge as a ready reckoner. Then see if the junk pile can be converted into something healthy like cutting out the cheese in the sandwich, or using brown bread or wheat instead of maida, or flour.
There are tons and tons of available resources on the web for kids lunch box ideas and recipes. Print out the ones that will work for you and keep them in the kitchen in a folder. Most of us do this but unless it is kept accessible in the kitchen, we may not actually use this.
Break The Lunch:
While different courses may not be possible, you could split the lunch menu into two parts. Most schools have one or two snack breaks and a lunch break.
Give one ‘fun snack’ for one break, and a healthy one for the other. This could be single serve pack of Chocos or three cookies. The idea is to limit this as much as possible. Sometimes a fruit salad does the trick here, fun without the junk.
Boiled fresh corn tossed with lime or pepper with less or no butter also makes a healthy and fun snack.
The main lunch can be made fun by making mini versions of the food like mini idlis, dosas or pooris. You could also use cartoon cutters for making brown bread sandwiches more fun.
Avoid processed foods as much as possible. While making noodles or pasta, make the sauce at home using olive oil, and puree all vegetables so they don’t pick it out.
Kids detest the rice with dal/sambhar versions in lunch boxes. If you have to give rice, toss vegetables in olive oil, season with some dried herbs like oregano, thyme (easily available in supermarkets like spar) and mix with hot rice. This is very flavoursome and as oregano is mostly used in pizzas, the aroma is very favourable with kids.
Be sure to pack half a small juice bottle of sugar-free juice like Real Active or B’Natural, in case they leave out some lunch.
A very important point, make sure all this fits in one lunch bag. Do not overburden with more things to carry.
The idea to keep them nourished, that will sustain them for a full day. So make sure they eat breakfast and have little meals throughout the day. If they finish the two snacks, a juice bottle and still leave out a quarter of the lunch, they are still fine.
Kids share lunch and snacks at school, so if they tell you something interesting a friend’s mom packed for her, if it is healthy and doable for you, try to incorporate it in his schedule.
Make sure, they eat a heavy meal as soon as they reach home and freshen up while you, or whoever is home for them, listen to their school stories. Children tend to eat more while talking.
Do not fret, try different combinations and you will find the one that works. As they grow up, kids will learn to eat at their own pace and as the activity levels increase at school with sports etc, they will automatically get hungry.