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Making Difficult Choices Easier

September 6, 2011 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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If you are a parent busily trying to pack a lunch for your child before they head out to school you are probably looking for foods that are quick to assemble, healthy, food safe and most importantly something they will eat. Ready-to-eat packaged foods are hard to beat in terms of convenience - but how do you know if they are healthy?

You might already know about reading food labels, but it can still be difficult to determine which packaged foods are healthier choices for kids. The Brand Name Food List can help you. This online database contains over 4,500 ready-to-eat packaged foods that have been reviewed and scored by Registered Dietitians using the nutrient criteria in the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools. These are the same nutrition guidelines that determine which foods are allowed to be sold in BC schools.

Anyone can use the Brand Name Food list by logging into the website. Once you have logged in and selected the "Search the Product List" button you can search the list by product type, brand name, manufacturer, score, or even school level. The foods in the "Chose Most" and "Choose Sometimes" categories are the healthiest choices. If you need some help navigating the Brand Name Food List you can speak with a Registered Dietitian at HealthLink BC toll-free from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays, by calling 8-1-1.

If you can't find your kid's favourite packaged food on the list you can send a request by email to brandnamefoodlist@gov.bc.ca. Attach a picture, or scan of the food label to the message to get your kids favourite food reviewed, scored and posted on the list.

Keep in mind that while packaged foods may be quick and convenient, homemade foods can be very healthful alternatives that give you more control over ingredients, and may even cost less.

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