When the children return to school, you’re again faced with the task of finding easy and healthy meal options for them (not to mention meals they’ll actually eat).
Maintaining a balanced diet is key, says Mary Lynn Duvall, RDN, CEDRD. Meals should include carbohydrates for energy, protein to maintain blood sugar for sustained focus and healthy fats for fat-soluble vitamins and energy. That being said, it’s OK to include a sweet treat or some crackers in a lunch. “I tend not to think about healthier or good versus bad because it demonizes and labels food,” Duvall says. “I think, ‘how does this food sit in the big picture?’”
Parents, she says, should get the children involved in meal planning because it’s important that kids like what they eat. Children whose parents deprive them of foods often seen as unhealthy will trade food with classmates at school and overindulge when they can access these forbidden foods on their own.
Parents should also encourage their children to taste new foods. “Trying different things, even if you know your kid is not going to be terribly fond of it, is a way to keep presenting it so that they get more used to it and more willing to try it,” Duvall says. “So parents need to think about and be respectful of what kids like and will eat, but it’s also their responsibility to keep providing variety even if their kids kind of turn their nose up at it. Ask them to at least take a no-thank-you bite. ”
Sound overwhelming? Don’t worry. We’ve talked to some child-focused nutritionists and compiled a list of meal ideas to help you get started.