Ah, September and back to school, every parent’s favourite time of year - especially when it comes to packing school lunches. For many of us, we start off the school year full of ideas and motivated to pack nutritious foods, but all too soon the excitement wanes and we begin to dread the task. Combine the frustration of half-eaten lunches and wasted food (and money) returning home at the end of the day and it’s easy to resort to pre-packaged, highly processed foods.
Over the next three weeks there will be some tips for creating spectacular school lunches that will help fuel your child(ren) all day and make packing those brown bagged lunches less stressful.
Tip #1: Pack small portions of nutrient dense foods, ideally in re-sealable, re-usable containers
Children often require less food than we realize and, especially if they are slower eaters, opening a lunch bag that is packed full can be overwhelming. They also tend to eat their preferred foods first. By packing smaller, or half portions, it will encourage them to eat a variety of foods, providing a better balance of nutrients and less waste. Re-sealable containers make it easier to eat some of the food and not have the mess of leftovers in their lunch bag (which might make them not want to even open the package to eat a few bites).
Limit foods that are high in sugar and salt and low in fibre. While these foods are fine on occasion, they should be paired with more nutritious options and not packed regularly. Foods that have protein and fibre help to keep us full longer and stabilize blood sugars. Foods high in sugar can cause unstable blood sugars, leading to a lower ability to focus, concentrate and learn.
If your child usually doesn't eat a lot at school, focus on starting the day off with a nutritious breakfast at home that is packed full of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. Send small, nutritious snacks to school to help carry them over until dinner.
The Dietitian's Dish is a new column offering healthy eating tips from GRH's team of registered dietitians. In this edition, Jason DeMaren and Lynn Rogers explore different healthy options for lunches at school.