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Healthy Lunches for your Kids

During National Nutrition month, Miramichi dieticians and nutritionists promoted the theme of “Eat Well Play Well” that emphasised the importance of healthy eating by school-aged children.

school lunchbag

“Schools are a natural setting to influence the health and well-being of children of all ages,” says Miramichi dietician, Lisa Doucet.

She says the one meal of the day most parents of school aged children struggle with is lunch.

Between grade one and the end of high school, a student may eat more than 2,400 lunches at school.

“It is often challenging to continuously create tasty nutritious lunches that children will eat.”

Whether children take a pre-made lunch or purchase it at school, it should contain healthy food items.

“A healthy lunch should be a balanced meal based on Canada’s Food Guide for Healthy Eating.”2

She says a balanced meal contains at least three of the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide for Healthy Eating, which include whole grains, fruits and/or vegetables, milk and milk products, and meat and alternatives.

The good news is that with a little planning and a few ideas, parents can put together a lunch that not only tastes great but is also healthy. The Dieticians of Canada suggest the following:

Recruit some help – Children are more likely to eat a lunch that they have been involved in creating. Let your children choose some of the foods that will go into their lunch bags. Plan or prepare school lunches together – make it fun!

Get organised – Speed up the preparation process by organising and placing in one location lunch supplies such as insulated containers, lunch bags or boxes, reusable drink containers, and napkins.

Lay a solid foundation – Teach children to include at least one choice from each of the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide for Healthy Eating.

Mix it up – Offer a variety of foods to prevent boredom and make lunch a meal that your child looks forward to.

Put safety first – Keep foods fresh and safe to eat. Use insulated containers to keep hot foods, such as soups or casseroles hot, and to keep cold foods cold. Chill items such as pudding, coleslaw or potato salad before placing them in the container. Use a small freezer pack or a frozen container of milk or juice to keep sandwiches that are filled with meat, egg, cheese, fish, mayonnaise or poultry cold.

Make their day! Surprise your child – write a special note and tuck it into the lunch bag. Add a colourful napkin or a cartoon.

It is also important not to forget to include liquids.

“Growing active children require lots of liquids and when they do not get the required amount it can lead to dehydration, headaches, fatigue and difficulty with concentration,” says Doucet.

She says children should have plenty of liquids that include water, milk, and juice throughout the day.

If your child buys lunch and attends a primary school in District 16, they will have the advantage of a food and nutrition regulation that provides them with healthy food choices that follow Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and applies to food served in cafeterias, canteens and vending machines and hot lunch, food supplement, breakfast and snack programs. Food choices high in fat and sugar are offered on a limited basis.

“Parents are role models for their children,” says Doucet.

She says it is important that they not only take the time to encourage them to eat healthy but also set a good example by following the same guidelines.

“Good eating habits are established when children are young and is carried with them throughout their lives.”

She says these lifelong good eating habits can be reinforced with children attending middle and high school where often they are responsible for making their own lunch choices.

The Dieticians of Canada make the following suggestions for a healthy balanced lunch:

  • Hummus, pita bread wedges, raw vegetables, yoghurt, 100% fruit juice
  • Whole grain tortilla filled with tuna salad, celery sticks, grapes, chocolate milk
  • Banana muffin, boiled egg, carrot sticks, milk
  • Leftover pasta, meat sauce, melon cubes, milk
  • Cut up cheese, leftover chicken or roast beef, whole grain roll, fruit salad, milk
  • Cold pizza, yoghurt, oatmeal muffin, 100% fruit juice

For more information about healthy eating contact:

Author Sonya Green-Haché is communications co-ordinator for the Miramichi Regional Health Authority in New Brunswick. This article was reprinted courtesy of Bread ’n Molasses

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