1. Educate Yourself
You won’t become a health-expert overnight but if you start making one small change at a time, you’ll find that come next school year, the eating habits of your family will have drastically changed.
You might start with:
- reading product labels and researching the ingredients
- shopping the perimeter of the grocery store (deli, produce, dairy, meat, etc) instead of the center aisles where most processed food is sold
2. Educate Your Child
When teaching your kids about health, get creative and think like a child. Don’t just say “eat this, it’s good for you”. Instead, tell your active little boy “You’ll want to try this! Spiderman is a HUGE fan of this because it makes your muscles grow.” Or next time they’re eating an orange, tell them, “oranges are really good for us! They have a lot of Vitamin C and that helps us fight the bad germs that try and make us sick!” Don’t underestimate your ability as a parent to shape and mold your impressionable child.
3. Plan Ahead
In our fast-paced lives, it can be difficult to throw together a healthy lunch when you’re first adopting better habits. Making a weekly plan will put you one step ahead of the game and prevent those stressed-out weeknights where you just want to order pizza and throw a Lunchable into your kids school bag.
Tips on planning for success:
- Plan a week’s worth of meals and bring a list to the store.
- Wash and cut your veggies as soon as you get home. Keep them stored in baggies or containers in the fridge so they’re always ready to eat.
- Search Pinterest or the internet to get ideas for “healthy lunches”.
- Buy reusable divided containers (like Ziploc’s Divided Rectangle) and pack a few day’s worth of lunches so they’re ready to grab from the fridge in the midst of the morning chaos.
4. Make it Fun!
Let’s get one thing straight -- I am NOT the mother who sends a happy-face-shaped watermelon with googly berry eyes in my kids’ lunch! As much as I envy those domesticated women who can make a cucumber look like SpongeBob SquarePants, that is not me! But I do try to make lunches fun by using a few of the following simple tricks:
Foods with dips
- veggies + Greek yogurt dressing
- whole wheat pita + hummus
- fresh fruit + yogurt
- apple slices + almond butter
- stackables: whole grain crackers + cheese slices + nitrite-free deli meat
- lettuce leaves + tuna salad
- veggie taco: mini tortilla + lettuce + tomato + shredded cheese
Think outside of PB&J
- rice cake + natural peanut butter + raisins
- Greek yogurt + low-sugar granola
- rolled up whole wheat tortilla with cream cheese + nitrite-free deli meat
- raw nuts trail mix + raisins + popcorn
5. Keep it Real
With our Monday to Thursday lunches being health-tastic, Friday became “Special Lunch Day”. One day a week where the boys could pick an out-of-the-ordinary lunch. Having a weekly treat helps keep all of us from feeling deprived and makes our regular healthy lunches even more enjoyable!
Finally, remember that good things take time. The positive outcomes of improving your family’s eating habits will serve you well into the future so don’t expect them to happen overnight! Make one small change at a time and when that becomes comfortable, move on to the next thing.