Posts Tagged 'school lunch'

Preschool Lunches- No Big Deal

Many parents tell me that their child doesn’t eat their packed lunch.  This doesn’t surprise me when I see the portions that are typically packed. When parents see what comes home from a packed lunch where the portions were too large, it looks as if the child ate very little, which is exactly how much they should be eating. 

Do you know what a serving of vegetables or pasta looks like for a toddler or preschooler?  You might be surprised.  I have been observing the lunches sent in by parents at a local preschool.  This preschool does a beautiful job at lunch, putting each child’s packed lunch on a plate and giving them a cup of water and utensils to eat with.  All of the children eat together at a table, assisted by the staff. 

However, the serving sizes of foods are usually way too big.  As just one part of a lunch consisting of 4 or more different foods, I have observed a 1 cup portion of fried rice, a 1 cup container of yogurt, a whole sandwich, ½ cup of crackers, a large apple (sliced) and ¾ cups of pasta salad.  Children ages 2-5 don’t eat or need that much at one meal and these serving sizes are sending the wrong message.  When adults constantly see over sized portions at restaurants, they start to believe that this serving is the appropriate amount that they should eat, but it’s not.   So sending a child too much food, even if it is nutritious food, sends the message “this is how much you should eat.”  No wonder so many of our children are overweight or obese.   

Young children have small stomachs so they need smaller meals and a few snacks throughout the day.  Lunch can consist of 4 choices, at the very most.  Children can become overwhelmed with too many choices.  Examples of serving sizes for preschoolers are:

1/2 -3/4 cups milk or 1 ounce of cheese (one slice) or 4 ounces of yogurt

½ -1 slice of bread or ¼ cup crackers

1 tablespoon of fruit or vegetable per year of age.  (A three year old would receive 3 tablespoons berries)

1 tablespoon of meat, or beans per year of age

1 egg

An exmple of an appropriate lunch for a 4 year old is:

½- 1/3 cup fried rice

4 tablespoons diced chicken

4 slices of apple

4 small carrot sticks

Milk can be served with lunch, but keep in mind that preschoolers only need 2 cups of milk a day, so serving water is fine.  Keep lunch child sized for your child.   You will be surprised how much they eat.

Packed Lunch for your Preschooler

Your child is ready to go to pre-school or kindergarten!  You have done all you can to prepare him or her for this experience.  Oh, but you will also need to pack a lunch.  If you find yourself dead in your tracks here are some ideas and suggestions.

First, keep in mind the rules you have established about meals: Don’t ask them what they want in their lunch.  Just pack what you would like them to eat.

Don’t expect the teacher to monitor your child’s eating.  It’s not fair to ask a teacher to make sure your child eats some of the sandwich before they eat their cookies.  If you don’t want your child to eat just cookies for lunch, don’t put them in the lunch.  Put in as many cookies, or chips, etc.  that would be ok for your child to eat.  Accept the fact that some days they will only eat certain foods.  But if they are hungry, they will eat more than just the fun food.

Only send foods that your child can eat independently without choking. 

One way to kill a child’s appetite is to give them juice or a caloric sports drink.  They will most likely drink this and then feel full.  Send water or milk if the milk can be kept cold.

Don’t get too hung up on sandwiches.  Some kids love them, some don’t.  Finger foods work well too.  Instead of a sandwich you can send some cheese slices or cubes, crackers, fruit and a cookie.  If your school allows it, send some nuts, raisins and cereal mix, add carrot sticks and chips.

Don’t forget about yogurt, send them with vanilla or plain and give them something to add, such as fruit, a teaspoon of sugar sprinkles, or honey.  Yogurt can be kept cold by freezing it before you put it in the lunch.  Food in squeezable packaging are also fun for kids.  Unfortunately the yogurts in tubes have a lot of sugar in them so consider them a dessert.  You may be able to find applesauce in a tube.   Kids also like to dip.  Think about sending pretzels or carrot sticks with a bean dip such as hummus or refried beans.  A cold cooked chicken drumstick can be dipped in ketchup or bar-b-que sauce.

Plain beans also make good finger foods.  Cold defrosted vegetables are also good finger foods.  Pack a small amount of frozen corn, peas, or edamame.  They will be defrosted and cool by lunch time.  Small previously baked potatoes are also good for dipping in ketchup.  Sliced apples tend to turn brown and then the kids don’t eat them.  You can sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to prevent browning or use other fruits.  Grapes, strawberries and blueberries are great choices.  Cut up other fruits, such as melon, peaches, nectarines or plums.  You can make a fruit salad or a fruit kebob.  Half a banana, still in the peel is also a good option as well as orange wedges.

 Kids always like noodles.  Many will eat a simple pasta salad consisting of cooked pasta, sliced olives and some shredded mozzarella cheese.  Anything on a toothpick is also fun.  You can put some cooked tortellini on a toothpick with cherry tomatoes or pieces of avocado.  Roll up some slices of turkey or chunks of cold cooked chicken and put them on a toothpick, with pieces of soft fruit such as peaches or nectarines.  Hard boiled eggs are fun for some kids.  Give them some dressing to dip it in.  Only send foods such as tuna, egg, salmon, or chicken salad with mayonnaise if the lunch will be refrigerated.

Overall, be creative.  Don’t worry about what is eaten or not.  Try to send at least one item that you know your child will eat.  It’s also OK is they have the same lunch every day; you can add variety at home meals and snacks.