When my husband and I first discovered I was pregnant with my our daughter, I knew things wouldn’t always be easy, but I had NO IDEA that one of the biggest challenges I would face as a parent would be getting my child to eat healthy foods. Everyone had been so quick to give me advice about what does and doesn’t work for colic, when to start sleeping training, the best way to handle temper tantrums, and a slew of other stuff I had already read about while I was swollen and pregnant and uncomfortable, but not one of my friends warned me that I would spend the majority of the toddler years begging and pleading with my child to eat something more nutritious than toaster pancakes and waffles.
Now, my daughter takes picky eating to an entirely new level, and I completely lack the willpower my friends have when it comes to enforcing the “eat what’s on your plate or go hungry” rule at mealtimes, so I’m not really sure they would’ve been able to help me anyway, but I do wish I had been more equipped to handle my daughter’s fussy eating habits when they first began as it would’ve saved me a lot of heartache, worry, and tears.
The good news is that, even though my daughter is still one of the pickiest eaters I’ve ever met, I’ve learned to just accept it. I still ask her to try new things, but I don’t harp on the issue, and mealtimes are no longer a stressful event in our household. I’ve also learned that a little creativity can go a long way, and despite the fact that my daughter’s self-imposed food restrictions are pretty limiting, I’ve come up with some great tips for packing (mostly) healthy school lunches for picky eaters.
And since I know I’m not the only mom out there who worries their little ones aren’t getting the nutrition they need on a daily basis, particularly when they are sitting in the lunch room at school, I decided to share my best tips with all of you.
1. GET THEM INVOLVED
If you’re child is coming home with an untouched lunch box every afternoon and/or spends a great deal of time complaining about the things you pack, try getting her involved in the grocery shopping and preparation of lunches each week. This will not only empower her and make her more likely to eat whatever she takes to school, but it will also give the 2 of you a fabulous excuse to spend some one-on-one time together!
2. PACK THEIR FAVORITE FOODS
When my daughter first started giving me a hard time about food, I made the mistake of offering only one food she liked and about 5 foods she didn’t like each time we sat down for a meal. I figured she would eventually get hungry enough to eat something other than toaster waffles, but instead the 2 of us got into a massive power struggle and I soon realized my daughter has more willpower than I will ever have. I have since learned to offer 3 foods she likes and only one food she’s unsure of at each meal, and every once in a while, when she doesn’t think I’m looking, I’ll catch her sneaking a green bean into her mouth.
Of course, finding wholesome treats to include in school lunches isn’t always easy, and that’s why I love Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish® Crackers. They come in so many different flavors, so my daughter never gets bored by them, and the multi-packs are PERFECT for school lunches and after school snacks. I honestly don’t know how I would’ve made it through the last 3 years without them!
3. PUT YOUR CREATIVITY TO THE TEST
Whenever my dad was in charge of making our lunches and dinners when we were kids, he always cut a piece of sliced cheese into the shape of the first letter of our names. It was such a small thing to do, but we absolutely loved it. And while I am not exactly a rockstar in the kitchen, I do find my daughter is more receptive to her meals when I dress them up a bit. It’s amazing what a couple of cookie cutters and pieces of decorative fruit can do!
4. HOP ON THE BENTO BOX CRAZE!
Since my daughter doesn’t eat a lot of traditional lunch foods, I used to lay awake at night worrying what I would pack her for lunch when she starts school in the fall, but when a friend of mine started posting pictures of the bento box creations she makes for her son each day, I knew everything would be okay. It’s pretty amazing how much you can pack into those things, and with so many different compartments, you can incorporate all kinds of foods your kids love!
5. MIX IT UP
One of the biggest challenges I face with my daughter’s picky eating habits is trying to keep things new and exciting so she doesn’t grow tired of eating the same things day in and day out. This isn’t always easy given the fact that she only eats about 10 foods, but I find the more I mix things up at mealtimes, the more likely she is to eat a substantial meal.
6. ADD A NOTE
My best friend in first grade got a note from his mother in his lunch every single day, and while I used to make fun of him whenever I saw the silly little things she wrote to him, I was secretly really jealous of him and vowed I would do the same for my daughter. I just think it’s a nice way to let your kids know you’re thinking of them during the day.
7. HELP THEM KEEP THEIR HANDS CLEAN!
I’m pretty strict when it comes to washing our hands before we sit down to eat when we’re at home, but if preschool has taught me anything, it’s that I simply cannot control what does and doesn’t happen when I’m not around to supervise. The good news is that Wet Ones® Singles kill 99.9% of germs, and by adding one to my daughter’s lunch bag each day, I can rest assured her hands will be clean and ready to dig into the yummy, healthy foods I’ve prepared for her.
Alright, now that I’ve shared my tips for packing healthy school lunches for picky eaters, it’s time to put them to work. Here are 5 different bento box lunches I’ve prepared for my daughter, each of which includes foods she loves and a couple of items she’s not overly fond of.
BENTOX BOX 1
CONTENTS: Grapes, blueberry jam sandwich in the shape of a duck (with a blueberry eye!), 2 cheese sticks, cucumbers and ranch dressing, 1 serving of Goldfish Original Crackers, raspberries, blueberries, Wet Ones Single.
BENTOX BOX 2
CONTENTS: Celery and carrot sticks with ranch dressing, mini croissants with blueberry jam, 2 cheese sticks, raspberries, blueberries, Goldfish Whole Grain Crackers Multi-packs, yogurt, Wet Ones Single.
BENTOX BOX 3
CONTENTS: Yogurt,Goldfish Whole Grain Crackers Multi-packs, grapes, cantaloupe, blueberry jam sandwich in the shape of a star, celery and carrot sticks with ranch dressing, Wet Ones Single.
BENTOX BOX 4
CONTENTS: Celery and carrot sticks with ranch dressing, yogurt, crackers and cheese, banana, fruit salad (blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe), Goldfish Whole Grain Crackers Multi-packs, Wet Ones Single.
BENTOX BOX 5
CONTENTS: Goldfish Whole Grain Crackers Multi-packs, banana, cheese and crackers, veggies with ranch dressing (celery, carrots, and cucumbers), yogurt, grapes, Wet Ones Single.
If you’re looking for more lunchbox inspiration, make sure to visit the Wish I Had Wet Ones in My Lunchbox website between July 6, 2015 and September 7, 2015 for heaps of other ideas and a chance to win a year’s supply of Wet Ones® for your home and your child’s classroom*, plus $1,000 cash!!!
What are YOUR tips for packing healthy school lunches for picky eaters?
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Wet Ones®. The opinions and text are all mine.