Let’s face it, my kids school lunches are exceptional – exceptional in that I’m told they are not normal. I wish I had a dollar for every time I am asked “do your kids actually eat that?” or “how much of that comes home untouched?” The food I pack my kids is just food they love to eat and their lunch boxes are almost always returned completely empty (other than the odd olive pip or a cupcake holder).
You only have to look inside a kids lunch box to understand that the industrialisation and commercialization of our food chain has a strong hold on this next generation. Combined with the peer pressure to conform to the processed food norm, convincing your kids to eat ‘real’ food at school can be a challenge. All the same, I can’t help but feel it’s such a shame that whole foods are considered ‘hippy’ or just plain ‘weird’.
It was no surprise to me, not long after I launched Well Nourished, that I learned in the course of a conversation with my then 8-year-old, that she was embarrassed by her school lunch. I was sad and frustrated that she felt persecuted for eating what her body is designed to eat. It was another steep but resolvable learning curve for both of us.
This is what we did and what you can do to convince your kids a healthy lunch box is cool…
It’s a personality thing
My daughter is of strong character, but she also likes to be liked and fit in. So I asked her if she liked her school lunches and how I could change them to make them less embarrassing. She was torn because her favourite lunches were definitely not the ‘norm’ and she actually didn’t want anything else in her lunch box.
Rise to the challenge…
We discussed how healthy, fit, strong and smart she is and how the food she eats impacts positively on those attributes. She decided she could live with the embarrassment (and any lunch box bullying) and so her lunches stayed the same. I think this experience has actually been character building for her. She has learned how not to conform and I think a valuable life lesson. My son (6 years) on the other hand loves his tucker so much, he happily lives with taunts about his ‘smelly’ eggs and ‘yuk’ salads. He’s a big, strong boy (and ferociously competitive) so he happily defaults to the ‘this food makes me fast’ argument when confronted.
If not…strike a compromise, small allowances
I’ve struck many compromises with my kids and I do I love to ‘health’ food up! My kids have never had Subway, but the concept of it does appeal to them. So every now and them I buy a sourdough french stick from my local market, stuff it with meat and salad and they have “Subway” for lunch. Whatever your compromise, angle for the healthiest option.
Get them involved
Of course, give them some input into their lunch or getting them to help pack it with the understanding that they will need to eat all that is packed. I expect my kids to finish the food I pack for them and they know if they don’t eat it at school, they will need to eat it after school. I’m firm, but not mean – if something’s gone soggy for example, they aren’t made to eat it. But I really hate food waste and these rules are generally respected by my kids. Also, discuss with your kids the best order to eat their lunch. My kids know that it’s best to eat certain vegetables and fruit at first break or by the second break it won’t taste so good. The order of the rest is entirely up to them.
Discuss and help them to lead by example
Use whatever opportunities you can to discuss how healthy food might benefit them (physically and mentally). My kids are both athletic and do very well in lots of competitive sport. A few of my friends use this to motivate their own kids to eat well. I use a few of my kids sporting heroes (who I know have fabulous whole food diets) to reiterate the importance of good food choices. No nagging, just little hints, and mentions.
It’s funny the way the world turns. Whilst I have many motivations for developing Well Nourished, one of the key drivers was to help families improve upon their kids eating habits. I now have quite a few mums from school following Well Nourished and making changes to the content of their kids lunches. So for Miss 9, her healthy lunches have gone from being a source of embarrassment to a source of pride – the changes her friends make are noticed and it’s actually become ‘cool’ to have a healthy lunch. She is so cute…now if a student or teacher passes comment about her lunch being healthy, she gives them one of my business cards!
This in itself is my greatest reward from developing Well Nourished and for that, I am eternally grateful. As always, when making changes to your kids diet, persistence, patience and loads of praise is so important. Small changes can make the most profound difference.
If you need any help packing your kids a whole foods lunchbox, then check out ‘The Well Nourished Lunchbox‘ ebook for 150 pages of easy to make, delicious recipes and healthy inspiration.