Preschool students have a very busy day, and eating a well-balanced lunch is important. Parents whose young children may be picky eaters tend to be concerned that their child is eating enough. In trying to ensure that happens, they pack many choices, hoping the child will at least eat something. The reality is, when faced with too many items, children eat less - not more - because they are overwhelmed by choices. When multiple choices are treats or desserts, they may want to eat only those, and resist eating what we term their “growing” or healthy food.
The best way to be sure your 3-5 year old children will eat their lunches is to:
- Send foods they like, not that you “hope they might eat.”
- Include an entrée (ideas below), a fruit &/or vegetable, a drink, and ONE thing that might be considered a dessert or treat (no candy).
- Vary the items throughout the week, if you can.
Lunchbox entrées can include anything from typical sandwiches or yogurt to hummus and crackers, soup, pasta, or anything else healthy that your child likes. As part of the curriculum in The Experiential School, teachers offer many tasting, gardening, cooking and eating experiences, so you do not need to try to expand your child’s eating habits in the school lunches you pack.
A few additional school lunchbox packing tips:
- A “right-sized” lunch for a preschool child might include a small yogurt and ½ a sandwich, a few carrots or the like, and/or cut up fruit, a drink and one treat.
- If your children won’t eat the crust of a sandwich, they will eat more of the sandwich if you cut off the crust than if they are trying to avoid it.
- As an alternative to sandwiches, try rolling up meat and/or cheese or cutting up chicken.
- Make portions realistic to what they can finish in 30 minutes while sitting and talking with friends.
- Rather than sending snack packs of cookies, send one or two individual cookies.
- Chips, cookies, fruit rollups and the like are all considered treats by the teacher and one is sufficient.
- We teach them to eat their “growing” food first, so some additional items might come home, particularly if your child is very social.
Right- Sized Snacks
Speaking of right-sized food for preschoolers, remember that snack time is intended to be a mid-morning refuel, not a replacement for breakfast. If children have too many snacks they don’t eat their lunches. Too much also means that snack takes longer and does not leave enough time for preschool learning activities. A snack pack of pretzels, a yogurt, or a banana is enough, rather than a combination of those items.