We are always trying to find ways to simplify our lives. There are entire books, magazines and TV shows dedicated to this very subject. One of those times in almost all of our lives that could use a little simplifying is the morning routine. Last week we touched on some of the broad, universal things you could incorporate into your daily lives to make the morning routine a little smoother. This week, we decided to team up again with Porter Hospital Dietitian, Amy Rice, to talk about how to train your children to make their own school lunches.
I know, right now you are thinking, “What? Are they crazy?! If little Johnny makes his own lunch he’ll end up eating Cheetos and Ring Dings everyday!” And, while this might be true, we have some guidelines for an easy way to train your children how to make a healthy lunch and hopefully avoid the excessive processed food and sugar intake you fear.
Here’s what Amy has to say:
The strategy that I usually suggest to my clients and that I have instituted with my own 3 year old and 5 year old is the Protein/Vegetable/Fruit lunch. When packing their lunch, teach your child to choose a vegetable, a fruit, and then a protein-rich food. Depending upon their choices, at this point, an item from the breads/grains group may be added. For example, your child first picks from the vegetable he’d like in his lunch. He chooses baby carrots. Then he makes his fruit choice, a banana. Now for his protein-rich food, he chooses hummus and packs this as a dip to use with his carrots. Perhaps he wants to add a few crackers or pretzels to dip in the hummus as well. Lunch is done.
Why start with the fruit, vegetable, and protein-rich food? Many children’s daily intakes of fruits and vegetables do not meet the recommended amount of at least five a day and protein is an important nutrient for growth and development. Choosing from these three categories first stresses their important while moving the focus away from the starches that typically flourish in a child’s diet beyond recommended levels.
Training your child to pack their own lunch will help teach some basic principles in nutrition, meal planning, and independence. With this method, you will be creating a healthy lunch structure within which your child has the freedom to make their own food choices. Even if some of their food combinations sound strange, remember it is their lunch and their culinary exploration. Who knows, maybe a new family favorite may be happened upon from your six year old’s palate!
Take some time, today, to talk with and train your children about what a healthy lunch is and let them do the work. You will not only be freeing up some of your time each morning, but you will be instilling healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime.
For more information on training your children, inviting participation and encouraging independence, view the Parenting On Track™ Home Program details page, Chapter 3, Timeline for Training.