Involve children in making food choices

Children need to learn to make their own food choices and what they’ll eat for lunch is a great place to start.

It’s important for children to have choices when it comes to food. If children are more involved in making their food choices they’re more likely to eat. We can’t always make sure our children eat their entire lunch at school, but we can make sure that they’re involved in their options. Michigan State University Extension recommends getting your child involved in lunch choices.

This is how I handle lunch choices at home with my 10- and 7-year-old. A calendar with the school lunch choices for the month can be helpful if it’s available. This is the best way to begin making choices and creating a plan in advance.

Step 1: First we sit down and I read the choices for the school lunch. If one of my children select the lunch for that day, I write their initial on the day.

Step 2: Hang up the initial calendar where it’s in easy view and check it each evening to see if a lunch needs to be packed for the next day.

Step 3: Pack lunches the evening before. Make sure that three of the five food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein) are selected. You can find more information about the food groups at Any items that need to be refrigerated get put in a spot in the refrigerator so they’re easy to grab in the morning. Items that don’t need refrigeration can be put in the lunch container. You’ll also have to select a lunch container. For us, it’s an insulated, soft sided lunch box.

Step 4: Keep food safe. I want to make sure foods that need to be cold, stay cold. My children take ice packs from the freezer and place them in the insulated lunch container then add the food from the refrigerator and zip up the container. Packing lunches is one of the last things we do before we head out the door to ensure that the food will stay safe.

Step 5: Enjoy! You may not be able to make sure your kids eat every crumb, but you can ask what they did or didn’t enjoy about their meal to help make future choices.

Step 6: Clean up. If your child took a lunch to school make sure their lunch container is cleaned out before they head to bed and that ice packs are put back in the freezer and ready for next time.

Step 7: Repeat.

These steps may or may not work for your family. For me, it’s about having options and choices. I want to make sure that my children have healthy meals that they will eat. Choices now will help them to make good food choices as they get older. Also, being involved in planning their lunches takes some of the responsibility off me, as the parent and puts it on them – a win-win in this case, even if they don’t see the benefits, yet.

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