With the start of a new year, one of your goals may be to plan healthier meals for your family. Packing kids well balanced school lunches is a great place to start. A healthy lunch gives children the energy they need to play, learn and solve problems.
How to make healthy lunches
In primary and secondary schools, what kids bring to school for lunches and snacks is the responsibility of the family. Parents are a busy bunch, juggling lots of demands for their time. It’s no surprise that sometimes healthy eating can take a back seat, but here are some healthy lunch ideas to help you get inspired:
- Mix things up with these lunch wrap ideas
- Add some zing to lunches with these ideas
- Check out these tips for packing lunches
Get the kids involved. Let them plan the menu, make a grocery list, shop for food, and help prepare the lunches. Kids who help make and pack their lunch are more likely to eat it.
Don’t forget about snacks
Kids have little tummies, so it’s important to include one or two small snacks (one for during school and one for after school). A well balanced snack should include two of the four food groups. Avoid snacks that are high in salt and sugar and instead try pairings like these:
- Nut butter (if your school permits it) and a piece of fruit
- Whole grain crackers and hummus
- Cut veggies and yogurt dip
- Aim to include three out of the four food groups for lunch and two food groups for a snack
- Make half their lunch fruit and veggies. They are nature’s fast food. Try cherry tomatoes, baby carrots or apple slices.
A word about sugary drinks
Instead of pop or fruit punch in your child’s lunch, pack a water bottle, milk, or plain fortified soy beverage. Sugary drinks often have little nutritional value and add calories kids don’t need. These drinks tend to "bump out" healthier choices that growing children need to stay energized and focused at school and play. For kids of all ages, water, milk and fortified soy beverage are the best choices.
If you have more questions about healthy food and drink choices for your kids, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1, Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm, and ask to speak with a registered dietitian, or send an email. This is a free service for British Columbians.