Kate’s Corner
Aug 21 2015

  “What’s For Lunch?”

As children get older and can talk, this question will be asked more times than you want to count.  I should mention that the “talk” part includes new talkers – 2 year olds whose version of “What’s for lunch?” may include whining and crying close to lunch time with the inclusion of me or more.  This is closely followed by preschoolers and beyond whose version is “Ma! What’s for lunch?

The Mayo Clinic www.mayoclinic.org makes these recommendations for children:

Consider these nutrient-dense foods:

•Protein. Choose seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
•Fruits. Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh, canned, frozen or dried fruits — rather than fruit juice. If your child drinks juice, make sure it’s 100 percent juice and limit his or her servings.
•Vegetables. Serve a variety of fresh, canned or frozen vegetables — especially dark green, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas.
•Grains. Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown or wild rice.
•Dairy. Encourage your child to eat and drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.

We all agree that our children need to have healthy bodies to build skills in all areas.  Strong muscles and strong minds support learning and friendships.

So here are some tricks to help when your child asks What’s for lunch?

Toddlers:    Many toddlers are pickers and picky when it comes to lunch.  Keep this meal simple.  Start with half of a “protein” sandwich, fresh berries or seasonal fruits and a drink. Don’t worry about variety, if your toddler likes certain nutritional foods then serve them every day. Keep in mind that less is more; young children are visual eaters and will see success if their plate is not too full. Add more when she asks for more. Favorite character plates and cups help.  Transition from sippy cups to small, easily held plastic cups.  Start early – even lunch should be served at the same table every day.  Establish a “spot” to eat at the table for your child.

Preschoolers:    There is a lot to do in a preschooler’s world.  They are busy.  Favorite character plates and bowls still keep them interested, but the foods need to increase in variety and texture to keep them interested too.  Now conversations at lunch time hold attention to the meal and time spent eating.  Preschoolers can start to help plan, shop and prepare lunch – also clean up after.  Skipping lunch is never a good idea for young children who need calories and energy to fuel very active bodies.  Pack lunches in a lunchbox that can be opened for a backyard picnic or even a kitchen picnic!

School agers:     School aged children revolve around a social world.  They are here, there and everywhere.   Protein packed lunches and snacks are critical.  Give choices for all nutritional recommendations, include children in understanding why good nutrition helps skin, hair and teeth.  Keep track of when and what school agers eat, being very aware that older children will spend money on high calorie, salty, sweet and greasy snacks that are quick to eat.  Help them start early to eat and enjoy fresh fruit and veggies, making lunch a part of each day and choosing water over soda and caffeine drinks.

  • Childhood obesity is a national epidemic impacting health, life expectancy and quality of life. Healthy habits start early and last a life time.
  • Exercise and an active life style are critical for all children.
  • Young children eat what is bought and served in their home. If you are concerned that your child eats too many sweets or will only drink Huggies that is because they are in their homes and are choices.  Keep them off of your shelves and out of the fridge.  Replace with crunchy and fresh vegetables and seasonal fruits.  Children don’t buy groceries, adults do.
  • Be a model of healthy living.
    So the next time you hear “What’s for lunch?”   Be ready!