Let's face it: Kids are pretty picky eaters. That's why it's so important to make their meals interesting as well as healthy. And this is especially true for the midday meal. Lunch, after all, provides fuel to keep your little darlings going all afternoon. Give them proper nutrition and you'll help keep their brains working at their max. Here's a balanced meal that you can take anywhere.
A healthy lunch should include foods from all four food groups.
1. Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, calcium-fortified soy or rice beverages, pudding)
2. Vegetables and fruit (fresh fruit, cut up raw vegetables, vegetable or fruit juice, vegetable soup, a vegetable wrap)
3. Meat and alternates (lean meat, chicken, cheese, fish, bean salad, hard-boiled eggs, soy products)
4. Grains (whole wheat bread, roll or bagel, whole wheat muffin, flour tortilla, pasta, cereal, rice)
Healthy lunch tips
If your children continually bring home uneaten lunches, ask yourself what you can do to improve their eating habits. Here are a few tips.
• Get kids involved in planning meals they will enjoy. Let them help you make up weekly menus, shopping lists and even help you do the shopping.
• Let your youngsters help in meal preparation. They can help make part or all of their lunches either the night before or in the morning.
• Make sure the lunch is properly packed. A few good investments are a wide-mouth vacuum flask for soups or hot meals and ice packs or insulated boxes or bags to keep cold foods cold. Frozen juice boxes also make good ice packs.
• Use a variety of tasty and visually interesting breads for sandwiches, such as regular or mini whole wheat pitas, English muffins, flour tortillas or oatmeal or rye bread. For younger children, cut their sandwiches into cute shapes using a variety of cookie cutters.
• Make a colourful fruit salad with oranges, kiwis, grapes and bananas.
Six top picks for off the shelf snacks
Snacking has become a way of life for many families. If your between-meal pick-me-ups are well chosen, they can contribute to your kids' daily nutrient needs. They can be the same as mini-meals, with foods chosen from the four food groups. Here are our top six supermarket snack picks.
1. Sun-Rype Strawberry Fruit To Go 100% Fruit Snacks
Why we picked it: The ingredients list includes fruit purÃ©e and fruit juice concentrates with no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives and no added sugar, so we knew we had a winner.
To top it off, one bar has only 50 calories, no fat, one gram of fibre and no sodium. It's a tasty and very handy way for kids to get some of their five to 10 fruits and vegetables a day. It also comes in the following delicious flavours: Grape, Raspberry, Cherry, Wildberry, Tropical, Banana, Orange and Fruit Punch. These fruit snacks carry the Health Check symbol, so their nutritional information has been reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and meets specific nutrient criteria based on Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating.
2. Kellogg's Two Scoops Raisin Bran Bar
Why we picked it: Made from Kellogg's Raisin Bran cereal, this bar is low in fat, is trans fatâ€“free and, since it's portable, it makes an excellent option for breakfast on the run. One bar contains 110 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. It also has iron, vitamins B1, B2 and B6, folate, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc.
The bar is also a good source of fibre (two grams per bar). To figure out the approximate number of grams of fibre your child needs daily, add five to his or her age.
3. Nordica Single-Serve Cottage Cheese with Real Fruit, Peach
Why we picked it:
This compact little snack cup has lots of chunks of peaches at the bottom. Low in fat and high in protein, this cottage cheese snack has received a Health Check symbol from the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The peach snack contains 130 calories, two grams of fat, no trans fats and is a source of calcium. The cups are also available in Tropical Fruit and Strawberry.
4. Danone's Petit Danimals Drinkable Yogurt, Raspberry
Why we picked it: This nutrient-rich drink comes in a 93-millilitre, kid-friendly bottle that's easy to hold and to open. It contains 90 calories and only 1.5 grams of fat. It has three grams of protein and is a good source of bone-friendly calcium and vitamin D, providing 10 per cent of a child's daily requirement of both nutrients. It also contains vitamins B2 and B12, phosphorous and magnesium, not to mention real raspberry purÃ©e. Other delicious flavours include Banana, Strawberry and Strawberry-Banana. In our books, it's a great alternative to sugary empty-calorie soft drinks.
5. Jell-O Refrigerated Fat-Free Chocolate Vanilla Pudding Snack
Why we picked it: What kid doesn't like pudding? This one -- Chocolate Vanilla -- tastes rich even though it contains just 100 calories and 0.3 grams of fat and no trans fats. It also has some calcium and vitamin D.
6. PC Blue Menu Sour Cream and Onion Rice Chips
Why we picked it: For a tasty crispy snack, these chips can't be beat. They are baked, not fried, are trans fatâ€“free, low in saturated fat, and are lower in both sodium and calories than regular potato chips. A serving of 33 chips (50 grams) has 210 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of fibre and 360 milligrams of sodium. Compare this with 50 grams (25 chips) of regular chips, which contains 290 calories, 16 grams of fat and 350 milligrams of sodium.