Kids may not appreciate a nutritious lunchbox – 3 reasons why you should pack one anyway

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As a parent, you want your child to eat well and stay healthy. But packing a nutritious and appealing lunchbox every day can be challenging, time-consuming, monotonous, and sometimes just another thing to add to the never-ending to-do list. How do you balance your child’s preferences, dietary needs, and school rules? How do you make sure your child gets enough energy and nutrients to support their growth and development? And how do you avoid food waste and boredom?

Lunchbox content has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. I remember going to school with a simple container, tucked between books and a pencil case. Most of the time the content would be finished before the school day officially started. The rest of the time the school bag would lie somewhere in the sun, baking the contents. Who knows what would grow on the ham on your sandwich? Occasionally, the bag, with its content flew a couple flights of stairs more than once before recess. And then we would all still happily sit under a tree and eat our flat, deconstructed, warm sandwiches. Nibble on the blackened banana or semi-round, unpeeled apple. Did I forget about the water bottle? Yes, I did. Because there was no such thing as a water bottle. You would drink water from the tap or maybe just be okay until you got home from school.  Most of us grew up into healthy, happy adults with few emotional scars, no frequent food poisoning, or some other nutrient shortage.

Now why did this change? Why is it important to make sure all school-going kids receive some or other sort of healthy lunchbox? Why can’t kids of all ages not just grow up like we did?

Maybe this is a rather big achievement for humankind. Based purely on observational evidence, people are learning that healthy food is important and promoting healthy eating habits at a young age. Or, maybe it is because people are so much more aware of what other people are doing, a form of friendly competition through constantly comparing yourself with others on social media. It might even be merely influential or inspirational. We are exposed to loads of “pretty” content, we actually want to make something nice, cute, or fun for your kid and it will be a bonus if they appreciate it in the process. A sense of achievement that is rewarded by a “thank you Mom”, or even better, an empty lunchbox.

Sometimes I wonder if my 6-year-old even notices what she gets in her lunchbox. Most of the time it looks like a hamster with a full tummy was set loose in the lunchbox. Everything is touched, squashed, opened, dissected, and licked. But you have guessed it! Not eaten.

So why bother going through all this trouble you might ask? I have a couple of theories on why it might still be in your kiddo’s best interest to make sure that they receive a healthy lunchbox.

1. Educational opportunity

Breakfast usually happens in a hurry, lunch sometimes ends up being eaten in the car on their way to gymnastics, swimming, or ballet. Unfortunately, most families end up eating dinner in front of a screen. The 20 minutes of recess they have at school might be the most relaxed 20 minutes they will get during the day to enjoy a meal. Make it count. Show them what a balanced, thoughtful, healthy, and delicious meal must look like.

2. Exposure

Breakfast and lunch can very easily always be the same day after day.  Packing a variety of food for your child throughout the week exposes them to ingredients in a different way. It is very easy to hide vegetables in cooked meals, but that does not teach a child about raw, unprocessed flavours. There is little place to hide when packing a lunchbox. Things are usually fresh and raw. A palate for healthy foods is something that children need to learn from being constantly exposed to unprocessed ingredients. Seeing, touching, and experiencing something multiple times gives your child the opportunity to get used to it and they might even start liking it.

3. It might be their only healthy meal of the day

If you know that you are guilty of giving your child cereal for breakfast that is not considered healthy (because that is all they want to eat, something is better than nothing), a quick stop for a take-away on your way home and some chicken nuggets and oven-baked chips will have to do for dinner. You kind of owe it to them to make sure they get the fibre and nutrients somewhere during the day. It would be great if all of the meals could be fibre-rich and nutrient-packed, but take some extra care with the lunchbox if life happens to you.

What are some other benefits of packing a healthy lunchbox?

  • Providing your child with the nutrients they need to stay healthy, grow, learn, and play.
  • Helping your child develop healthy eating habits and preferences that can last a lifetime.
  • Preventing your child from getting hungry, tired, or cranky during the school day.
  • Saving money and reducing environmental impact by avoiding packaged and processed foods.
  • Showing your child that you care about their well-being and happiness.
 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the task of crafting a nutritious and appealing lunchbox for your child may seem daunting, given the challenges, time constraints, and the ever-evolving dietary needs and school rules. Despite the occasional hamster-like antics and the unpredictability of your child’s lunchbox consumption, the effort put into crafting a healthy and engaging meal is a significant investment in their well-being. It not only provides vital nourishment but also imparts lifelong lessons about nutrition and fosters an appreciation for wholesome foods. So, in the pursuit of that ‘thank you Mom’, and the elusive empty lunchbox, rest assured that your dedication to your child’s lunchbox is indeed a valuable endeavour in their best interest. CLICK HERE to learn what the components of a healthy lunchbox is.

Spread the health, every byte counts
Wilna Eksteen

Wilna Eksteen

Registered Dietitian

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