Launch Into Your Lunchbox

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by Kristina LaRue, RD, Love & Zest

My nearly 22 month old baby boy starts school today! This is a big milestone (and tear jerker) as a first time parent. I’m so excited about this school year and the fun that little man is going to have…class parties, art, science experiments, and lots of play (can we all go back to preschool?)… but if I’m honest, I’m a little nervous about some stuff too.

Will he throw temper tantrums at school like he does at home? Will he adapt to drinking from a cup instead of his sippy cup that he carries everywhere? Will he last until snack time at 11 a.m. without a hunger strike? My kid gets fed whenever he’s hungry which is often at 10 a.m. Guess I’m going to have to encourage a good snack and hydration in the car ride on the way to school.

Ahhh, so many things to worry about!

He will be attending class for 3 hours two days a week, but we have the option of keeping him there two more hours for “lunch bunch”. And as a working mom, I’m sure we will be utilizing those bonus hours. So I guess that means we are entering the lunch box scene! Parents are up against a lot when it comes to their children choosing healthier foods. Between advertising, availability in school cafeterias, and the general influence of peers, parents have a lot to attempt to stand against. Luckily, there are many tips, tricks, and creative ideas to help with packing healthier options for our children, starting with the produce we choose. Village Farms assortment of fresh and delicious tomatoes and cucumbers have made things a little easier in the search for lunchbox inspiration. Here are some tips and tricks along with three out of this world lunchbox pairings.

Balance new healthy foods with their favorites – One trick I learned pretty early on when attempting to get my little one to try new fruits and vegetables over the sweet and salty processed snacks, was to pair the healthier or more challenging options alongside some of his favorite foods (enter mini chocolate chip cookies and salty crackers). If you’re trying to get your kids to enjoy the healthier options, keep offering the ones they love but in a smaller portion alongside larger portions of the healthier option. Balance is key.

Scrumptious Mini® Cucumber Roll Ups

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Have some fun – Fun doesn’t only have to pertain to your kid’s lunch box design; it can also include their food. Just like adults, kids eat with their eyes so something as simple as switching up the shapes of food might make it more appealing to them. Also, color can be enticing. When you and I eat a sandwich with lettuce and tomato, we know the lettuce is green and the tomato is red, but if we display that for children the colors can draw them in. For instance, these cucumber pinwheels showcase the bright green cucumber swirled throughout – definitely more interesting and appealing to inquiring minds.

Heavenly Villagio Marzano® – BLT Kabobs

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Add a dip – Another trick to try to increase children’s healthier food choices and persuade them to lean more towards fruits and vegetables would be to add a dip of some kind. Try a veggie dip or a hummus (I added a little bit of hummus to go with the carrot and cucumber sticks). Children enjoy dipping and honestly, I don’t know many adults who don’t also enjoy dipping. In fact, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, dipping increases children’s vegetable consumption by as much as 80%!

True Rebel Mix® – Ham & Cheese Pinwheels

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Just keep swimming! Perseverance is important! Don’t get completely discouraged and throw in the towel too early if your little ones return home with some of the healthier items still inside their lunchboxes. It’s all about exposure and even if they don’t eat their fruits and veggies every single time, the more their taste buds mature, the more likely they will be to develop a taste and liking for them. So, keep offering these healthy choices. It’s not in vain, I promise.

After weeks and weeks of assembling lunches it’s easy to understand that a creative roadblock might hit. I’ve prepared several ideas for lunches that are quick to assemble, nutritionally balanced, and incorporate kid favorites alongside foods that may be new to them.

Click here to see all three recipes!

This post and recipe were created exclusively for Village Farms and originally appeared on Love & Zest. Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD is a board certified sports dietitian located in Orlando, Florida. Kristina is the author of the Love & Zest food and nutrition blog where she shares {mostly} healthy recipes with simple ingredients that are meant for real life.

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