Whilst it may seem easier to get your child to try new foods at home under the watchful eye of mum or dad, packed lunches provide a prime opportunity to get your little one exercising their independence and trying new things for themselves.
Mealtimes at home can often be emotionally charged, but once your child is at school with their friends, there is often a desire to fit in, and if the other children are munching away, they are naturally likely to follow rather than cause a fuss.
We all know how important it is for children to stay fuelled on the right foods to support them in these all-important early years so here are a few of my top lunchbox tips:
- The way you prepare foods can be the difference between a tantrum and a clean plate. Children love to pick up food and eat it with their fingers so why not get them dicing with new veggies such as carrot, cucumber, sugar snap peas and red pepper. Cutting them into small batons will make them easy to hold and fun to crunch on. Pack a few of these in their lunchbox in slightly damp kitchen roll to keep them fresh, alongside their favourite sarnie and some hummus for dipping. I promise it’ll be a whole different ball game than if you present them with a side of boiled carrots with dinner.
- On any slightly quieter weekend afternoons, get your little helper in kitchen prepping lunch for the week. This is a great way to keep little hands busy at home, and an opportunity to teach them new skills. By making something together from scratch, you’ll stand a good chance of instilling a love of good, healthy food and they are also far more likely to try something new if they have prepared it themselves.
- When you’re prepping their lunchbox, tell them about the foods you’re including and where they come from. Kids love to tell stories, but they love to hear them too, so pack in plenty of positives. You’ll be surprised how easily this can entice children to eat new foods, especially as they can share this fun knowledge with friends.
- Snack smarter. A delicious homemade savoury muffin will help top up a child’s energy levels mid-afternoon. You can experiment with lots of different veggie fillings such as carrot, courgette or butternut squash. Or prepare some homemade energy balls and bars; free of refined sugar and packed with oats, seeds, dried fruit and nuts.
- Make lunchtimes exciting and position trying new foods as fun. Pasta salads, rice salads, couscous or tabbouleh are tasty and filling too. Make some mini veggie balls or my famous chicken and apple balls; these can easily be made in bulk and frozen, plus little ones will love to dunk them in healthy dips. My children loved pitta pockets filled with tuna and sweetcorn. Or why not roll sandwiches to look like mini sushi rolls! These can be perfect to get children eating fish (if they weren’t so keen before!). You could also include some kids chopsticks in their lunchbox for added further fun factor.
You can discover Annabel Karmel’s food ranges for babies and toddlers in Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Aldi and Supervalu. Inspired www.annabelkarmel.com.