How can I get my kid to try new healthy lunch ideas?

How can I help my child to eat healthier lunches?

Carol Harrison Tips 3 Comments

We could drum up loads of ways to make sandwiches or soups healthier but if it’s your child’s idea to try grated carrot in their wrap, it’s much more likely to fly. Am I right?!

Here are a few ideas to help that along. Make a mental note of any ones you’d like to try.

  1. Plan, shop, cook and eat together often. It’s one of the best ways to help our kids develop healthy eating habits. Growing food together works magic too! Help your child fill out this Plan it! Pack it! Eat it! resource to list lunches and snacks they would like to take to school.
  2. Check out the Yummy Lunch Club contests for fun monthly food challenges that help kids to build food skills.
  3. Persuade with taste, not nutrition. Taste generally trumps nutrition for kids. And when it comes to nutrition, offer up benefits that matter to kids like eating healthy food gives you energy to play.
  4. Practice what you preach. Let your child see you try some new healthy lunch ideas.
  5. Look for some new lunch ideas together. Make a list of things to try. Use this Make lunch time fun time resource to identify foods your child likes and new ones they are willing to try. When looking for ideas on this site or in cookbooks or magazines, point out the different:
  • Breads, grains;
  • Vegetables, fruit;
  • Spreads, dips, fillings;
  • Sides, salads, soups;
  • Hot and cold lunches.

Dietitian’s tip: Kids may need to try a food 15 times or more before they decide they like it. I often tell my kids just because you don’t like something now doesn’t mean you won’t like it six months from now. And truth be told, I never started eating mushrooms until university and I don’t think I’m any worse for wear!

How do you get your child to eat healthier lunches? If an idea worked for you it will probably work for someone else too!

Do you have a question about school lunches?  Email me! 

See all the FAQ’s.

Comments 3

  1. Take the Surprise Out of New Foods

    It takes a lot of courage to put something into your mouth when you know absolutely nothing about it, and the information most parents give their kids—“yum, this is good”—just doesn’t cut it. Being able to make predictions is key to trying new foods. Practice telling your children as much as you can about whatever food you want them to taste. “This is crunchy like the chicken nuggets you like.” “This is sweet, almost like a cookie.” Then, instead of asking your children if they like what they’ve tasted, ask them to describe something about the food.

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      Hi Anak,

      Thanks for sharing your ideas! It’s a good reminder that even foods that seem familiar to us like carrots or eggs can be intimidating for kids to try. It sure does take time for kids to learn to like new foods maybe dozens of neutral or no-pressure introductions. I agree, “yum, this is good” may not be the best and I would add it inadvertently puts pressure on kids to try new foods (even though the intentions are good ones!). When kids feel pressured to eat (this makes you strong, I paid a lot for that food, your daddy made you a nice dinner, take two bites, no dessert until you eat this or that) they feel anxious and don’t do well with eating. I’ve even seen kids try to avoid coming to the table or wanting to leave real quick because they associate family meals with struggles that don’t leave them feeling good. I like your suggestion to describe the taste of the food without any pressure to eat it. Another great way to warm kids up to new foods is to get them to help grow (when possible), shop and prepare them BUT don’t expect them to eat it as a result or show disappointment if they take a pass. Just say maybe next time or we could try making it a different way next week. When they prepare foods the touching and smelling are all baby steps to trying new foods. My son disliked mushrooms so much that just touching them up at the grocery store and putting them in a paper bag was a big deal. Yes, my kids can be fussy! Imagine that, a dietitian with kids like the rest of the world!! Here’s my rule and it may work for others: you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to eat but I’m not making another meal. At the same time, I’m reasonable about what I put out making sure there is one thing they can fill up on and I avoid serving all new foods in one meal. Catering to kids likes and dislikes leaves them in a food rut that gets harder and harder to pull them out of – I’ve seen that too. Trust that setting a good example by eating well yourself is one of the best ways to help your kids develop good eating habits. (Oh boy, talk about long reply! Can you tell fussy eating is a topic near and dear to my heart!)

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