Hello, my name is Jennifer Glockner. I’m a registered dietitian nutritionist and creator of the Smartee Plate series. I’m so excited to be guest posting here today and discuss how to entice kids to eat more fruits and vegetables in their school lunches.
Recent studies show that kids may add fruits and vegetables to their school lunch trays but not necessarily consume them. The key is to not just pack fruits and veggies but find ways to encourage kids to actually eat them. I believe that fruits and veggies should be the stars of every plate and make up the bulk of every meal including a child’s lunch. Half of each meal should consist of fruits and veggies, 1/4 should contain lean protein, and 1/4 should include grains (at least 1/2 those grains should be whole grains). Trying to get more fruits and veggies into your child’s lunch is a challenge for many parents.
Studies show that gardening is a fun way to increase fruit and veggie consumption. Kids feel proud that they had a role in growing something and will be more excited to eat the fruits and veggies. Gardening together is also a great family physical activity.
Plan ahead and involve the kids in the planning and preparation of the lunch. If kids have a role in creating their lunch, they are more likely to eat it and be more adventurous with their food, too. Look at recipes/cookbooks with kids and shop ahead for the week. Take your kids to a farmer’s market or a grocery store and spend time in the fruit and vegetable aisle. Let them pick out the fruits and veggies for the week. Or take your kids to a local farm so they can see how a bulb or seed turned into the final product. Kids are curious and like to understand how things grow.
It’s also important to remember that kids model behaviors. If you are more excited about fruits and veggies, your kids will be, too. Also, it can take up to 12 tries for a child to like a new food. Don’t get discouraged. Try different recipes to prepare fruits and veggies in novel ways. Try, try, try again!
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5 Ways to Add Fruits and Vegetables to Your Child’s Lunch
Cut fruits and veggies into fun shapes. Studies have shown that kids are more likely to eat cut-up fruits and veggies than whole ones. Kids tend to like fruits over veggies so try combining fruits and veggies into kebabs, salads, or even as toppings.
Add fruits and veggies with lean proteins to whole wheat tortillas or pita bread. Present them as wraps, pinwheels, or quesadillas.
Stuff produce with a lean protein. Bell peppers and tomatoes work well. Try adding egg salad, salmon salad, chicken salad, beans, quinoa salad with fruits/veggies, or cheese. Add your own twist.
Instead of using bread, use fruit such as apple or pear slices as the “bread” and spread nut or seed butters in between the fruit slices. Or replace bread with lettuce cups or lettuce wraps and fill with a protein.
Kids love pasta. Try making pasta from veggies such as zucchini.