Watch above: Bagged lunches no longer have to mean boring. But before you think you have to create some of those works of art parents are posting online, Su-Ling Goh has some tips on how to make a healthy lunch a bit more fun.
EDMONTON – From making sandwiches look like cartoon characters to creating a lunch around a particular theme, some parents will stop at nothing to make their children’s lunches more appealing.
Over the years, more and more parents have taken to social media to post pictures of the near works of art they’ve created of their kids’ lunches.
But while getting children to eat a healthy, balanced lunch can be difficult, an Edmonton-based registered dietitian suggests parents don’t necessarily need to go to this extreme to make a healthy lunch look appetizing.
“I think it’s great if you have the time and you want to go for it, go for it. But I know for me, it’s challenging to do that kind of stuff with cookie cutters, etcetera,” said Lalitha Taylor, a registered dietitian with the Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network.
“We do eat with our eyes, for sure, but you can make an aesthetically pleasing, nutritious lunch for your child by keeping it simple.”
While at times parents may feel as though they’ve simply run out of lunch ideas, Taylor believes the responsibility of making lunches doesn’t have to fall completely on the parents’ shoulders. She says getting kids involved in their own lunch preparation usually makes them more inclined to eat it.
“If you throw a lunch together and you expect your kid to eat it the next day and they have no idea what’s in their lunch, chances are you’re going to get some food items coming back to you.”
The Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network has put together a series of videos with numerous ideas for creative, healthy school lunches, including whole wheat pizza roll-ups, inside-out sandwiches and mini carrot pumpkin cupcakes.
And on days when getting creative seems like a bit too much work, Taylor says even the packaging can make for a better-looking lunch.
“There’s Bento Boxes that you can play around with, fun containers, fun Ziploc bags. So you don’t necessarily need to be spending a whole whack-load of your energy to be creating a beautiful looking lunch.”
Above all, Taylor says it’s important to include at least three of the four food groups in a child’s lunch, and sneaking the fourth into a snack.
“We want to get some good healthy grains in there because of course that’s going to give children energy. We want to expose them to some more calcium and Vitamin D throughout the day… vegetables can also be fun and a crunchy part of that child’s lunch meal,” she said. “And then we want some good healthy protein choices in.”
And staying away from a lot of salt, fat and sugar will get kids started off on the right foot, Taylor adds.
“If we can get them started with healthy eating at the get-go, right now at this age, it’s going to set them up for success later on in the future and prevent chronic disease.”
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News.