Nutritionist has tips for healthy, fun meals whether your child is learning in school or at home
As kids head back to school — in a classroom or at home — things will be much different.
COVID-19 has affected every aspect of life, including food service. And that tkes on new significance with the school year set to begin — with children eating in a socially distanced classroom or having lunch at their own dining room table. Safety is a priority, while maintaining healthy eating habits.
To that end, schools are working to reduce risk by increasing distance between students, having fewer items to touch and offering disposable containers and utensils for meals that still adhere to nutritional guidelines.
If your child will be e-learning this fall, mealtime can mean you’ll be making meals at home or picking up prepared meals from school.
For those returning to in-school learning, packing a lunch is little changed: You want something that is healthy but that your kids will willingly consume.
Kristal Twardy, a registered dietitian with Franciscan Wellcare, suggests involving kids in the process to make them more likely to eat what you make.
“If you have them help you plan or even prepare the meals, it will make it so they are more likely to eat them,” she said. “Talk with your kids about what is going into each lunch and agree on a grain, protein, fruit and vegetable, and include a calcium source or beverage, like milk.”
Kids often respond well to charts, and Twardy said using a chart may help increase fruit and vegetable consumption. “If you’re having trouble with your kids not eating their fruits or vegetables, make a chart of different fruits and vegetables and then have the child put a check mark next to the fruits or vegetables they agree to eat in their lunches and then just alternate between them,” she said.
Another tip for making lunchtime less stressful is making time for meal prep and planning rather than scrambling at the last minute to pull something together. “Make time at night to individually portion items into bags or put items in food storage containers in the fridge, so in the morning you can just grab and go. Have a special section in your fridge dedicated to this, so nothing gets missed,” suggested Twardy. “A well-balanced meal plan includes lots of variety. At the same time, it is normal for kids to be picky at times and want the same thing all week. Work with them to find alternatives they will eat. Kids usually like fun, bright, colorful foods, so if you have a picky eater, make star shaped or heart sandwiches using a cookie cutter or try a colorful fruit salad.”
Some kids are big dippers and letting them play with their food via a container of dip can help transform their eating habits. Or sometimes just having bite-size portions can make a food less daunting for them to tackle. “Keep fresh fruit and vegetables, whole wheat crackers, nut butters, hummus cups, low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt on hand for healthy meals and snacks,” said Twardy.
These tips apply to lunch time for those learning at home.