Every morning, dutiful mom that I am, I pack school lunches for my seven-year-old boys. I keep it simple—maybe a few cherry tomatoes, some locally made cheddar cheese, whole grain crackers. I start out hopeful—surely today they will eat every bite! But no. Almost every afternoon, most of their lunch travels back home. This, I tell them with a stern frown, is not what I mean by recycling. I try not to take it personally, but I do. Parenting, like yoga, can teach you a lot about pride.
Swallowing mine, I conducted an informal lunch survey of second-grade parents to see if I could learn any new tricks. Some consensus did emerge: Kids like crunchy food. They like to dip. They like a variety of colors and textures and prefer a few smaller dishes to one big thing. Almost any sandwich filling tastes better rolled up in a tortilla or lavash than tucked between plain old slices of bread.
"Making food fun is what's important," says Kyle Kornforth, the administrative coordinator of Berkeley, California's, Edible Schoolyard, where kids grow what they eat. "I tell my daughter she's eating a rainbow, one made of fruits, vegetables, and grains."
If you keep the right ingredients on hand, you can pack a nutritious lunch in minutes. Try nuts, fresh or dried fruit, cheese sticks, baked tofu, guacamole, carrots, mini-bell peppers, hardboiled eggs, pita bread, and hummus. It also helps to make your kids part of the lunch process. Bring them to the grocery store and have them pick out a few nutritious items.
In the end, though, the yogic notion of nonattachment should prevail. If despite your best efforts, your kids' food comes back untouched, let it go. Intention counts, and your child will still be nourished—if not by a sandwich, then by love.