For the first year and a half of my daughter’s eating career, I prided myself on her broad palate of (mostly) healthy food choices. Making her lunch was an adventure in “what cool thing can I pack that’ll boost her up the food pyramid chart for the day.” Veggie-packed frittatas, Hummus, Avocado, Bean and Veggie Quesadillas, Pasta with Beets and Zucchini, and on and on. It was easy for me to accept her “snub my nose at dinner” attitude given her nutrition-packed lunch. As a health educator, I dreaded what I knew was coming. At about age 2 when children’s growth spurt slows is when picky eating behavior starts to rear its ugly nose.
And it happened. About a month after starting a new daycare the daily notes with the glaring “Did Not Eat” checks next to the lunch line came. Day after day, I sent her favorites – turkey burgers, veggie pizza – with the same results. DID…NOT…EAT. I kept trying and finally hit the jackpot with the single thing she would eat – hallelujah! – tuna fish on whole wheat. Since I wasn’t there to encourage her eating and “tasting”, I easily got snagged in that working mom trap. I started sending the same lunch every day only mixing up the fruit to go along with her new favorite sandwich. Soon after, I learned that her new best friend was also a sandwich-only girl. I knew I had lost the battle. Not even a supermom can compete with a girl’s first best friend! But she can try.
So with her off to fourth grade now, I think it’s time to resurface the lunch (or rather sandwich) makeover idea. I’ve been plotting. I know I need to handle this just right because 1) lately she just doesn’t like my opinion or ideas about anything and 2) well, she just doesn’t like my opinions and ideas and that’s reason enough to tread lightly. I need to make it seem like she has complete control over the situation.
She’ll let me mix up the sides – fresh fruit, baby carrots, pretzels, etc. But she’s pretty staunch on the sandwich. She just doesn’t like any lunch meats, cheese sandwiches, eggs, peanut butter and jelly etc. And the fact that she is so strong-willed (ahem – stubborn) it just wasn’t worth the crying fits and tantrums. And really tuna fish on whole wheat bread isn’t so bad health-wise.
This year however, I’m calling in Ty and the team from Extreme Makeover to knock down this crumbling structure and to help build a more solid foundation. Well, at the least, I’m going to start slowly mixing up her lunches. My list is below which I hope to work through one by one. Wish me luck and please send your own lunch box suggestions.
- Hummus on whole grain bread or tortilla with cucumbers, shredded carrots, and/or spinach
- Low fat cream cheese on tortilla with cucumbers, shredded carrots, etc…
- Bagel puppets: whole wheat bagels spread with cream cheese and decorated with veggies
- Minestrone, lentil or vegetable soup
- Veggie sticks or fruit kebobs with dip (hummus, bean dip, greek yogurt)
- Burritos with veggies and cheese
- Quesadillas with roasted veggies and cheese
- Funny Face pizza
- Egg pizza (frittata cut in wedges)
- Veggie burgers
And here is few strategies I’m thinking about:
- Step 1: Buy her a new cool lunchbox of her choice.
- Step 2: Start talking about all the awesome things she’s going to experience in fourth grade this year – new teachers, new friends, the school library, eating in a cafeteria, etc.
- Step 3: Suggest that, as a fourth grader, she now can start making choices about what goes into her lunch.
- Step 4: Brainstorm and list what a “good (nutritious but balanced) lunch” may contain – cookies are fine as long as there is also fruit or veggies.
- Step 5: Use the list to create a weekly lunch menu, go food shopping together and have her help me each night put together her lunch.
- Ongoing: Repeat step 5 each week or every 2 weeks and maybe a revisit to step 4 occasionally too!
OK – so what did I miss? Do you think this will work?