Your child’s school lunches and snacks are a major source of the essential vitamins and minerals they need to grow and develop over the years.
The foods you pack for your child will give them the energy and nutrients they need to learn and play at school. Without enough energy from food, they may feel tired and find it difficult to concentrate in class. Just like adults, if tasty healthy foods are not available when your child is hungry, the chances that he or she will reach for unhealthy junk food is greater.
The foods and beverages available at your child’s school may be changing because of the Ministry of Education’s new School Food and Beverage policy. Here’s what you need to know about packing a healthier lunch.
Step one: Think food groups. Aim to have at least three of the four food group represented in your child’s lunch. Check out Canada’s Food Guide to review the food groups.
Step two: Think outside the sandwich! Get creative when choosing items for your child’s lunch. Sometimes changing something as simple as the type of grain. For example, using pita, flatbread, tortilla, or cereal instead of bread can make lunch more interesting for your little eater. You may even want to write up a simple chart to brainstorm different options. Here are some ideas to get you started. Mix and match the options in the different columns to get a variety of lunch meals.
- What should I do for snacks?
As you plan snacks, think of them as a “mini meal” that includes two of the four food groups. Try these simple nutritious snack ideas:
- Whole grain crackers with a cheese stick.
- Fresh cut fruit with a yogurt dip
- Nut-free trail mix. Combine dried cranberries, raisins, dried apricots, and apple rings with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, along with your kid’s favorite cold cereal.
- Yogurt tube and small oatmeal muffin
Children experience food using taste, touch and sight. Keep them interested with lunches that include a variety of shapes, colors and textures.
- Cut sandwiches into triangles or diamonds. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes.
- Change the bread – try different kinds of grains (rye, pumpernickel, flax) as well as the type of bread like whole grain tortillas, bagels and pitas.
- Offer various types of cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, Jack, Swiss) in different forms (cubes, strings, slices and balls). To create a cheese ball, shred and then shape into balls.
- Switch up the veggies and fruit. Give your kids something different to experience with each bite. Group foods according to: Type (citrus, tropical.); color (green, red, orange, yellow, purple); shape (balls, strips, chunks, whole); or texture (soft, juicy, crunchy)
- Kids love to dip. Use cottage cheese, hummus, yogurt, or guacamole as healthy dips.
- Try some of the kid approved recipes from our Kids Recipe Challenge winners.
- How do I involve my child in deciding what to have for lunch and snacks?
From planning to packing, get everyone in the family involved when making lunches and snacks.
- Give them healthy options to pick from – they will be more likely to eat a lunch that they choose.
- Older children can help make sandwiches or stuff pitas, while younger children can place snacks into containers.
- Take your children grocery shopping and let them choose some of their favorite foods like breads, vegetables, fruit and yogurts. Use these shopping tips to help you guide your children in making healthy choices.