Teach your kids how to pack a better lunch

When they're little you do everything for your child, but now that they're older, shouldn't they be making their own school lunches?

Think of it as an opportunity to teach your child life skills about planning ahead and self-sufficiency, said Imagination Soup blogger Melissa Taylor, who wrote the handy eBook "DIY Lunches: Flip, Pick and Pack" that serves as a guide for children.

"Really, as early as kindergarten or first grade kids can at least be responsible for making one part or more of their lunch," Taylor said. "Start small. For example, every day younger children can be responsible for the fruit, then as they get older they can do more and more" until eventually they're making their own lunches, said the mother of two.

Packing their own school lunch "is an easy way to give kids some responsibility and also have them learn lifelong lessons about nutrition, how to read labels and eat all the food groups," Taylor said. They're also more likely to eat food they've chosen themselves, leading to less waste.

Check out MyPlate

To learn about proper nutrition, Taylor suggests families use the food plate diagram updated by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2011 that replaced the food pyramid. The colorful image called MyPlate and found at www.myfoodplate.gov is divided into four sections for fruit, vegetables, grains and proteins with a small circle for dairy.

"It's a good visual clue to show children how much of each group is needed for a healthy lunch, so they don't end up putting in five servings of fruit or grains," said Taylor.

"It takes practice for kids to be able to pack their own lunches, and the parent should be their for supervision and guidance," said Taylor. One of her daughters loves grated carrots in her lunch but is too young for that particular kitchen tool. "I'm the assistant" who grates the carrots, she said.

More tips:

  • Skip the dessert. They don't need it, and they'll eat it first.
  • Go shopping during the weekend so the refrigerator is stocked with enough healthy and appealing food to pick from during the school week.
  • Try toothpicks for fruits and vegetables, cut cheeses and meats. "Kebabs make food more fun," Taylor said.

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