It’s the time of year when parents begin to fret about filling their children’s lunchboxes. (Children, I’ve found, are more concerned about the lunchbox itself.) But have no fear.
There are two rules, equally important:
1. Don’t brave it alone.Involve your child in every stage of decision-making. Ask them what they want for lunch, and then have them help shop, cook, prepare and pack it.
2. Make it real.Real food. Real time. Use the lunchbox as an opportunity to connect with your child.
Some children will welcome deep involvement. Sit down with them and come up with a list. Depending upon their age, either one of you can write it down, but have them illustrate it. To avoid insurgence, revisit the menu every few weeks or so.
Many kids want to eat the same thing every day; others want variety. Don’t assume that because they rejected a food once, they will again. Sometimes kids say they don’t like something because it’s unfamiliar, but sometimes it’s because they’ve been eating too much of it. If you really want your children to eat, pay attention to, and sometimes even cater to, their food eccentricities.
Pickiness, depending on the reasons for it, can last a short time or a lifetime. It can work for or against you. If your child loves tomato sauce but doesn’t eat green beans, try combining them. If your child likes sesame seeds but not chicken, try coating chicken in sesame seeds.
If your child doesn’t want to help or seems indifferent, pack a little bit of many different things. He or she will be grateful for all of the choices. Even if not everything gets eaten, you’ll have broadened the possibilities for a nutritious lunch.
Sampson is the founder and president of ChopChop, a cooking magazine for families.