Your child needs the energy from a nutritious lunch to keep her going at school all day long. So use these great tips to send your kids off to school with the a nutritious and delicious lunch every day.
A healthy packed lunch can be a child's best start to developing healthy eating habits and a good relationship with food. Children who eat well and stay active are more likely to do better in school, maintain a healthy body weight, build lifelong healthy eating habits and have better self-esteem. With a little knowledge and planning, you can be part of that good beginning.
1. Consider your child's age, appetite and the recommendation of Canada's Food Guide when determining serving sizes. For a small eater, half a sandwich may be sufficient when packed with other small snacks, such as cubed cheese, fruit, cut vegetables or whole grain crackers.
2. Active and growing children need many small and nutritious snacks to keep their energy levels up throughout the day. A healthy snack combines two to four of the food groups and is "tooth friendly" (doesn't sugar-coat teeth). These can include fresh fruit with yogurt dip, apples with cottage cheese, carrot sticks with tzatziki, whole grain crackers with cheese or pita bread with hummus.
3. Children need lots of fluid throughout the day. Proper hydration combats headaches, fatigue and listlessness. Water is the best choice to drink: pack a reusable water bottle in your child's lunch bag to encourage it. If serving juice, choose juice boxes labelled 100 per cent fruit or vegetable juice. Pack small portions; Canada's Food Guide counts 1/2 cup (125 mL) juice as one serving.
Do not let juice replace fresh fruits or vegetables: when consumed in large quantities, juice can cause weight gain.
4. Avoid snacks and beverages high in calories, fat, sugar and sodium, such as cookies, doughnuts, French fries, potato chips, fruit-flavoured drinks and soft drinks. Treat these as occasional snacks, best suited for home.
5. Involve your child in choosing his or her lunch menu. Including favourite foods and snacks ensures the lunch will be eaten at school. Stick to introducing new foods at home.
6. Be sure to offer a variety of foods in your child's lunch from day to day. For optimal growth and development, children require many different nutrients that come from a variety of foods. If they eat the same meals and snacks every day, they may miss out on essential nutrients. So, mix it up!
LUNCH BOX TIPS
- For litterless lunches, choose reusable containers for the food.
- Keep lunches cold and safe with reusable ice packs and thermal lunch bags. Keep lunches refrigerated until the last minute.
- To avoid morning hassles, make and refrigerate lunches the night before.
- Where possible, freeze individual portions of muffins, cookies or quick breads. Pop them into lunches in the morning; they will thaw by lunchtime.
- Encourage kids to help make and pack their own lunches and get involved in making healthy choices.
- Don't forget the fruit. Cubed melon, pineapple, mango, strawberries and grapes make welcome additions to the usual apples and oranges. In winter, try sectioned grapefruit and zipper-skinned citrus, such as mandarins and clementines.