Kids can be fussy eaters. Here's how to get them looking forward to break time!
After a long and exciting summer spent trying to keep kids entertained, the anticipation of children heading back to school is joy to the parent's ear! There are a few caveats, of course - earlier mornings, additional commute time to drop and pick them up, as well as the dreadful and very finicky lunchbox prep. I have a few tricks to help you through the laborious lunchbox preparation that will save you time and tickle the palates of your kiddos. Here goes.
Food shop and prep
The first trick is to do the food shopping and major food prep on the same day. Being organised is key to not only remembering which child to pick up when and where - but also for your sanity. If you have things under control, you can sleep better, knowing that your mornings will be less frantic and you won't have to add a trip to the supermarket after an exhausting day. Buy fresh vegetables, fruit, poultry, meat and fish as well as other perishables weekly, but keep your major pantry and toiletry shopping for once a month. By doing so, your weekly supermarket trips will be much shorter as you only have to run in and grab a few staples. Once you return from your market shopping, wash, dry and chop or slice your fruits and vegetables for the week, keeping them separate in airtight containers.
Get a selection of food containers in different sizes and shapes. These will allow you to share perfect portion sizes. Cute containers make for a tidy lunchbox and presentable, app-etising food.
Provide healthy meals
By far one of the best things you can do this year is to rep-lace processed meats in sandwiches with home-cooked meats. Make roasts of beef, lamb, chicken or turkey and slice thinly in some wholesome whole-grain or multigrain bread. Dried fruit, raw nuts, fresh fruit and vegetable crudités with hummus are also great snacks for children of all ages (as well as adults).
Avoid excessively salty, pre-packaged crisps and sugary snacks. You will help build your child's immune system, especially since so many kids return to school bringing back several illnesses from their summer travels abroad. I once worked as a substitute teacher for young children and, let me tell you, the foods kids eat reflect in their behaviour and attention span. Ensure that you provide slow-digesting wholegrain carbs, proteins, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats in their daily lunch.
Make the food colourful
Remember that we eat with our eyes first. Natural food that has bright colours looks fresh and appealing and, I stress, natural. Plus, if you have foods of different colours, there will be lots of nutrients from the varied food groups.
If your child loves a particular dish you made for dinner, you do not have to reinvent the wheel! Simply pack it along with other sides and snacks and he or she will love you for it. Do avoid fishy leftovers, as these tend to carry stronger smells and may be a little embarrassing, esp-ecially for the older ones.
Enlist the kids
Let them help you by suggesting lunch menu ideas or snacks that they will love. If you involve them, they are more likely to want to eat the contents of their lunch boxes. Also, if your children are old enough, let them pack their own boxes. If they are younger, by all means involve them in the process so that they can learn how to put together balanced meals.
Pack boxes the night before
What seems to take forever in the mornings - because you have so much going on monitoring breakfast, who has yet to shower and who went back to bed - can take a few minutes in the evening, either while cooking dinner or after the meal, as part of the kitchen clean up routine. You can easily add another 5-10 minutes of well-needed slumber or a quiet cup of tea in the morning with the extra time.