Being a maker of extra virgin olive oil, we’re a bit obsessed about healthy eating – and that extends to children, both in school and at home. With kids now back to school, many are eating lunches served by the school cafeteria – often high in salt, sugar and unhealthy fats. And before they head off to school, they may not be getting a healthy breakfast at home – if they’re eating one at all.
In recent years, there’s been some improvement in the school lunch program. You may recall Uncle Sam introduced new school-meal regulations in 2012. Initially, a majority of elementary-school students griped about the healthier lunches, which feature more whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and lower fat levels.
But by the end of the school year most found the food agreeable, according to a survey of more than 500 primary school administrators. The results are contained in a new study. In fact, it turns out school children actually like eating healthy foods!
“It is my experience – and that of many other educators in the U.S. – that once there is a real alternative, children do not throw out their healthier options. In fact, they embrace those healthy foods and never look back,” restaurateur and food activist Alice Waters wrote in a recent essay on Time.com.
While not all schools across the U.S. have yet implemented healthier lunch programs, your child can still begin to develop a healthier palate. With a little time and planning, you can help your child prepare a pack lunch and transform their lunch into a flavorful, healthy meal – one they’ll even enjoy.
Here are tips to make the task easier:
- Think ahead. A little planning can go a long way. Talk with your child about their likes and dislikes, for starters.
- Capitalize on leftovers. If you’re cooking chicken, for example, make extra and transform the leftovers into a wrap or pita packet. Ditto for pasta, soups, chili, and thin-crust pizza.
- Compartmentalize. Many kids like to sample a variety of foods. Bento-style lunch containers make that easier. Pack them with hummus, whole-grain crackers, veggies, fruit, meat, and cheese. (In the case of veggies, you can make them an olive oil Caesar dressing.)
- Get them involved. Have your kids put items on the grocery list and help you shop. They’ll more likely to be enthusiastic if they’ve had a say in the menu. Also, let them pick their own lunchbox.
Here are resources and links for additional help:
Breakfast also is particularly important for kids – and skipping it is a sure way to start the day on the wrong foot. A number of studies have demonstrated that eating breakfast bolsters memory and learning. So make it a good breakfast that will entice a youngster
To help you and your child get off on a healthy footing, we’ve compiled a collection of kid-friendly (and adult-friendly) recipes for breakfast – in addition to lunch and dinner. (Click here to see our eNewsletter featuring kid-friendly recipes.)