My daughter started preschool last year, and because she was not quite ready for the transition, I also attended preschool.
At snack time, I was unable to avoid the temptation of scanning the children’s lunches. It made me aware that one of the challenges of sending a lunch, is that children want their lunch to look like everyone else’s.
Suddenly, my daughter was requesting foods she previously did not know existed: Dora fruit snacks, yogurt tubes, banana bear paws. I realized that this was the beginning of the loss of control of my daughter’s diet. Because I cannot make unhealthy foods marketed specifically for children illegal, I thought I would offer some alternatives, so we as the collective parent, can change our children’s food culture. So what do we consider a basic healthy meal? Usually some kind of whole grain carbohydrate (bread, pasta, rice…etc), a protein (eggs, milk, cheese, beans, seeds, poultry, fish, meat) and some veggies or fruit.
Here are some better ideas I saw at preschool:
• Salad on a stick: cut-up cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, (or whatever veggies they like) with cubes of feta or mozzarella cheese and put on small skewers. These are more fun to eat than regular salad and do not require cutlery.
• Mini pizzas: take a whole wheat pita or English muffin, top with a little tomato sauce and whatever toppings your kids like. Melt in toaster oven.
• Yogurt-fruit-granola parfait: put yogurt, fruit and sprinkle some granola in layers in a little Tupperware container.
• Edamame: this is a soybean sold in pod that can be bought in the freezer section of the grocery store. They need to be boiled, steamed or microwaved to cook, and usually sprinkled with a little salt. Kids love eating out of pods.
•Hard boiled eggs
•Trail Mix: Mix a low-sugar cereal (like Cheerios) with seeds, dried fruits and a couple pretzels. If allowed at your school, you can add nuts as well.
• Veggies and Dip: kids love dipping. The problem with vegetables is taking the time to cut and peel them. If you prepare a large container of cut-up veggies in the beginning of the week, you can just take a quick handful every day.
• Apple slices with cinnamon
Try incorporate different colours and remember the best way to get your child to eat their lunch is to get them involved in the planning and preparation.
-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.