Young Girl Eating Salad

School lunches have changed quite a bit since I was in school. Chances are, your child’s packed lunch looks a lot different than the peanut butter and jelly sandwich you may have brought to school long ago. If your kids are anything like me, visual appeal plays a big role in food selection and willingness to try new foods.

Encouraging your child to be part of the shopping and selection process at the grocery store can be a great way to ensure your child is excited about his/her packed lunch. Kids are also more apt to eat new fruits and vegetables when they are cut into bite-sized pieces or fun shapes.

Research suggests that it takes approximately seven attempts with a new food before a child will try it and enjoy it. Keeping that in mind, don’t hesitate to let your child try certain fruits in vegetables in a variety ways. You may find that your child enjoys a particular veggie raw versus cooked or with a tasty dip like plain low fat Greek yogurt mixed with taco seasoning.

Talking with your children about different fruits and vegetables at home can be quite helpful as it is unlikely that your child will choose the school cafeteria as the place he/she tries green beans or another food for the first time. If the food looks familiar from home, there’s a better chance that your child is willing to eat it again at school.

We also can’t forget that breakfast is the most important meal of the day! If you’re in a time crunch first thing in the morning, preparing grab and go breakfast options the night before can reduce morning chaos. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches paired with a glass of milk or even yogurt with a piece of fruit can provide balanced options that can be eaten on the way to school.

Snacks can also provide an additional opportunity to sneak extra nutritious foods throughout the day. Foods with excessive added sugar or fat can provide your child with a temporary spike of energy followed by sluggishness and hunger later in the afternoon. Healthy options such as fruits, veggies, nuts, and low fat string cheese sticks can be great snack options on the go.

Whether you’re packing breakfast, lunch, or snacks, there are many great products that can help parents pack meals in a variety of shapes and sizes. Varying sizes of plastic containers make it easy to pack sauces, dips, and condiments to go with your child’s lunch and often come with specially designed cooling blocks to help keep meals chilled and fresh. Websites such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s KidsEatRight.Org or Pinterest can be a great resource for lunch ideas and kid-approved recipes.