How to make sure your kids eat their packed lunches

WASHINGTON — The start of the new school year means that a lot of parents are again doing their best to pack healthy lunches for their kids. So how can you raise the odds that your child will actually eat what you pack?

“This might be one of our hardest challenges as parents, right,” Sally Squires, who writes the Lean Plate Club™ blog, told WTOP.

“You pack those lunches, you do it lovingly, and then they come home and they’ve eaten half … or traded it for something else.”

A new study published in the American Medical Association’s pediatrics journal on the eating habits of preschoolers suggested that changing something as simple as the presentation of the food could make a big impact.

“It seems like kids are very visually interested,” Squires said.

In this case, giving the kids trays with compartments featuring pictures of healthy food made the little ones more likely to pick out fruits and vegetables, compared with those who got plain plates without pictures.

What else can parents do? Be good examples.

“You’ve got to be the good role model for your child,” Squires said. “We think our kids aren’t necessarily watching, but they are. … You can say all you want, ‘Eat that fruit, eat those veggies,’ but if you’re not doing it, they’re not going to do it either.”

Lastly, consider rethinking your portion sizes.

“We tend to dish out more to kids than they need to eat,” Squires told WTOP. “Get a lot of variety — but small portions, so it makes it more interesting for the lunch.”

She recommends small Bento boxes or snack bags.

Making sure your child is part of the decision-making process can also help.

“If you say to them, ‘Do you want strawberries or grapes today in your lunch? Do you want carrots or celery? Do you want hummus or ranch dressing?’ You’re giving them limited options, but they’re choosing,” Squires said.

“You’re helping them be part of the process and you’re engaging them. You have a much better chance that they’re going to eat what you pack,” she said.

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