During a recent conversation with a friend, she remarked what a nightmare she was having trying to get her teenage boy to eat his lunch. Apparently, she had been providing a large array of delicacies including cold sausage, eggs and luncheon meats, only to find her dear progeny was surreptitiously discarding this bounty in the school bin. From a purely social standpoint (seriously, the smell of a boiled egg can clear a classroom quicker than the mention of math homework) her comments filled me with a kind of horror and an even stronger emotion when viewing this from a health perspective.

Picky-Children

The dilemma of providing a healthy school lunch is universal and one of the elephants in the room is the fact that, aside from the health of our beloved wretches, it is the unspoken but ever present fear of being judged by other parents. How many times have you heard the phrase “but (enter name) gets (enter junk food) in their lunch! It’s not fair!) Aside from the fact that I believe a teenager should be well and truly if not making their own lunch, at least assisting in the preparation of it, let’s have a look at some productive ways we can work with our kids to give them a lunch they will love, eat and benefit from.

Explain why

Don’t underestimate your kids. You will be amazed at how far a little common sense can go with them. When they complain that they are missing out, sit them down and say something like this:

“I love you, and that means I want you to be healthy and feel good. I understand that you want what other kids get in their lunches, and if I didn’t love you so much it would be easy to give you those things but, knowing how bad they are for you and caring about you the way I do and wanting the best for you, I just can’t do it. How about I give you a list of healthy options for your lunch and we sit down and you can pick out things from that list.”

The beauty of this little speech is that it gives the child a sense of control and of responsibility for their own wellbeing. Here are a few suggestions of what you may like to include in that list:

Optimal Options

Raw (Organic if possible):
Manuka Honey. Try this one (https://www.mrvitamins.com.au/honey/manuka-honey)
Green Beans
Cucumber
Carrot Sticks
Any fresh fruit
Pumpkin Seeds
Sunflower Seeds
Unsweetened Yoghurt
Fresh dates (mix into balls and roll in coconut – Yum!
Ricotta cheese mixed with honey and sultanas and rolled in coconut
Popcorn – homemade cooked in coconut oil

Seriously Avoid

I don’t like to be a naysayer, but some foods should never be eaten by anyone let alone children.
To assist in explaining to your children why you don’t want them to eat these I have provided an note alongside each one. Unfortunately, this list is far from comprehensive but it’s a start. Be aware that even snacks bought in the health section of your supermarket may still contain many of these. The safest foods are those which haven’t been processed and are usually not commercially packaged.

Luncheon meats – have been linked to cancer due to the sodium nitrite contained in them.
Hot Dogs / Frankfurters – as above –
Foods containing additives especially those listing these numbers as they have been linked to behavioral and learning disorders:

  • 249 – 252 Sodium Nitrites
  • 220 – 228 – Sulphites. Used as a preservative on things such as dried fruit.
  • Colours – 102, 104, 110, 122, 124, 129

Refined sugar including Corn Syrup

As mentioned, these lists are far from comprehensive but can be used as a starting point in your quest for healthier, happier kids. Whilst takeaway food and the like may seem to be the easier option on paper, the reality is that sick children or those who can’t seem to sit still or who have attention and behavioural disorders, are much harder and less enjoyable to bring up that bright, healthy kids. Your children should be a source of delight and wonder. Don’t let them down by depriving them of their right to nutritious and healthy food.