Help! Healthy Baon Ideas, Please?

Photo by OLA Mishchenko on Unsplash

What, for you, is a healthy baon? It’s very tempting to pack something “happy” for your child rather than healthy, right? Of course our ultimate goal is to raise a healthy happy child. We know that if our child is healthy and energetic, he is able to join activities, and not miss classes and parties – opportunities for him to foster friendships and build his self-esteem – because he is not sickly.

But the struggle is real. There are kids who just won’t eat much, who are picky and almost always choose the same nuggets or hotdogs you know aren’t good for them. You heave a sigh and hope against hope that when they grow up they would change their habits. “At least they’re eating and nothing goes to waste!”

Let me ask you: What kind of child do you have? We have to take time to get to know what makes him happy, eat well and make healthy choices. What excites him? Ask her. Observe her.

Then ask yourself too. What kind of parent are you?

1) the I’m-busy-so-I-prefer-quick-to-prepare-baon parent;

2) the I’m-under-a-tight-budget-so-I-resort-to-junk-food parent;

3) the I’m-busy-and-can’t-afford-much-so-please-help! parent; or

4) the I-want-to-serve-healthy-but-I’m-out-of-ideas parent.

These are realities we are all in, but it can always improve, and walking an extra mile is worth it. Here are some suggestions to encourage your child to eat healthily and be happy:

  • Introduce the children as early as possible to healthy habits by first setting the example. Try healthier meals and make them taste what’s in your plate (or baunan).
  • If your child is interested in scientific facts, share with them the effects on them of each food item or nutrient.
  • For kids who are attracted to the aesthetics of food, take time to present and package your food in vivid colors, and creative ways.
  • Is your child interested in kitchen work? The future chef’s appetite will benefit from taking part in the cooking or baking, developing her taste for healthful ingredients. My 8-year-old daughter loves to help out and often she makes her own smoothies of fruit and milk (skip the sweeteners if you use bananas and pineapples). Make sure they are always supervised. They like consuming what they eat and save some as baon for the next day. 
  • Does your child seem to crave for affirmation and affection? Put small notes of encouragement and stickers that cheer them on. His tummy is full, and his heart is filled with your love. (photo included: “fruit & chips with notes”)

My Classmate’s Baon is Always Yummier

Funny that we always think the baon of others appeal more to us than our own. It’s the “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” mindset. While they are young and their hearts are tender, we need to nurture contentment, gratitude, and appreciation for simple but good food. They will be tempted to compare what they have with others and be curious about tastes. We can reinforce truths to them that each family is unique, and your food choices are uniquely what works for your child.

This is a challenge my husband and I face everyday raising our vegan kids. Their baon is always different and weird for a regular child. Oftentimes there are positive remarks especially from teachers. What’s surprising though is when occasionally classmates get curious and are excited to taste what they have in their lunch bags.


Serve their Favorites

I asked my 6-year-old son what his most favorite snack or packed food is and he answers a robust: “Everything with peanut butter, except for the apples.”

Every child has his favorite healthy food (and not-so-liked fruits and veggies). So if it is what will make him eat, go serve it again and again, BUT in different ways. Add what is lacking. Spread it on a variety of bread: pan de sal, multi-grain bread, sourdough, pita, pancake, waffles, and then in whole-wheat crackers. Top apples and bananas with it, then sprinkle some cinnamon. Mix it with mashed camote and a little milk. Shape it in interesting molds or through cookie cutters. 

Better Options

Fresh is always best. Avoid processed, refined and canned food. Substitute white sugar with honey, stevia or muscovado. Fruits in seasons and vegetables available in your local market cost less than imported grocery items.

Resist the sugar-loaded jams, and artificially flavored spreads. Serve garlic and olive oil bread. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, basil or malunggay powder.

Instead of plain white rice, make homemade sushi by wrapping your brown rice & cucumber or mango (or your child’s favorite bits of ulam) in seaweed. Pack some wasabi, soy sauce and chopsticks if that excites them!

Ditch the chips. Go for trail mixes: throw in their favorite crispy veggie noodles, banana chips, apple chips, dried fruits, nuts, cereals, cornik, and sure, some potato strings. You can still make use of those cookie or cracker crumbs at the bottom of the bag.

Skip the french fries for sweet potato (camote) fries. Or sprinkle your home-cooked fries with turmeric or malunggay powder.

Bake homemade pizza in a jiffy! Spread tomato/pizza sauce and put your favorite toppings on pit bread. Heat in a toaster oven and there you go!

They love corn? Mix kernels of yellow and white kernels with camote or banana cue-strips.

Bake cookies with your child’s help during the weekend to replace your commercially packed biscuits.

Comfort Food vs. Experiments

Some kids like the same thing every single day like comfort food, while others are more adventurous. Break the monotony with variety every now and then. Surprise them with a note, saying, this is another version of your favorite meal!

Make their spoons and forks fancy, even color-coded for each day, and their lunch boxes more interesting with their favorite colors and characters. Decorate a plastic container with customized stickers, or personalize their lunch bag and napkins. An ice cream date coupon to be claimed if he takes home an empty lunch box might motivate him too!

I asked for more advice from my two little ones. Their answers: “Pop in some popcorn. Or give them crispy mushroom, kangkong, spinach and pechay. Make them try strawberries with chocolate or a peanut butter-banana sandwich! If their kids like it, then hurray!”

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