It’s that time of year…time to head back to school! We recognize that settling back into routine can be a challenge, but it’s also a fun opportunity to try new things and recommit to good habits. One of those both fun and challenging activities is packing school lunches. How do you keep things interesting? How can you encourage picky eaters to try new flavours? We turned to the nutrition experts at EatRight Ontario to get tips and tricks for packing lunches that are healthy and balanced. Here is what they recommend…
Ideas for packing a balanced, healthy 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 if you would like to review the food groups.
Step two: Think outside the sandwich! Get creative when choosing items for your child’s lunch. Try 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.
Ideas to keep lunch interesting and to encourage picky eaters to try new flavours:
Your child’s tastes may change from one day to the next. Try new foods regularly and don’t be afraid to try them more than once. You may have to offer new foods many times before your children learn to like them!
Children experience food using taste, touch and sight. Keep them interested with lunches that include a variety of shapes, colours 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).
- 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.
Tips on packing lunches and snacks that are safe to eat:
Keep these food safety tips in mind when packing your child’s school lunch and snacks.
- As with any meal, always wash your hands first.
- Prepare your child’s lunch on a clean surface using clean utensils.
- Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly (even if labeled “pre-washed”) before cutting them or placing them into your child’s lunch bag.
- Do not reuse perishable foods (meat, fish, poultry and milk products) that come home uneaten from your child’s lunch.
- Keep lunches in the fridge until your child is leaving for school.
- Use an insulated lunch bag with a small ice pack for foods that need to stay cool. A frozen juice box or bottle of water can also help keep foods cold.
- Put foods that need to stay hot in a thermos. A thermos is also good for smoothies and milk.
- Be sure to keep reusable containers clean by washing well with warm soapy water.