How many times have you packed a healthy lunch only to find your child has traded, tossed or toted it home uneaten? Don't be discouraged, you're not alone if you answer, 'far too many times to count'! Use our simple lunch planner and 'Good Fixings' ideas and see how getting your kids involved can make all the difference.
Find out what goes into packing Healthy Lunches that make the grade.
Have some fun
The key to creating healthy lunches your child will actually eat is getting them involved! Start by brainstorming together about the sorts of foods they would like in their lunch. Set some ground rules based on Canada's Good Guide, and then let your child take the lead. Have some fun experimenting with new lunch ideas.
Print a copy of our Mission Nutrition* My Lunch Menu planner.
Get a weeks worth of great ideas in our Sample Lunch Menu Planner.
Have your kids plan their lunch menus ahead each week so you can put their choices on your Shopping List.
Sidestep three of kids' biggest pet peeves with these Good Fixings.
|Tip:||Parents, looking for the best way to beat the lunchtime blues? Let your kids in on the action! Getting kids involved in menu planning and making their own lunches leaves them little room to complain about their mid-day meal!|
Planning lunches with your kids is a great way to teach them about Canada's Food Guide. Remember that healthy lunches include foods from all 4 food groups. Make this your first ground rule for planning and packing their lunches! Here's how to make their choices from each food group count:
- Vegetables and Fruit
Pack at least 2 servings of Vegetables and Fruit (3 for teens) to help kids meet their daily nutrient needs. Most kids don't get enough veggies and fruit! See Good Fixings for smart ways to squeeze more in.
- Grain Products
Include 1 to 2 servings of Grain Products (2 to 3 for teens) like breads, naan, pita, tortilla, cereals, pasta, rice or other grains. Go for more whole grains and aim to make at least half of your grain choices whole grain.
- Milk and Alternatives
Provide lower fat milk as a drink. Kids and adults need 500 mL (2 cups) of milk each day. Pack a fortified soy beverage if your child does not drink milk. Try lower-fat yogurt cups or tubes and cheeses too.
- Meat and Alternatives
Choose lean meats. Make tuna and salmon sandwiches to help kids get their two servings of fish each week.* Experiment with meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu more often. A Thermos filled with warm chilli or minestrone soup can hit the spot on a cold day. Try eggs for a change.
Find out what counts as a Food Guide Serving and How Much kids need.
* Health Canada provides advice for limiting exposure to mercury from certain types of fish. Refer to www.healthcanada.gc.ca for the latest information.
When it comes to school lunches, kids have plenty of pet peeves. Try these ideas to navigate around three of their biggest lunch-time complaints.
Pet peeve # 1 - I don't want veggies or fruit! The problem with veggies and fruit is they're often squashed, wilted or bruised by the time lunch rolls around.
- Make a colourful 'confetti' tuna, turkey, chicken or egg salad with shredded or finely diced veggies and fruit. Try zucchini, carrots, celery, green onion, apples and pears. Pack in a separate container to spread on bread at school.
- Send bite-size raw veggies like baby carrots, sweet pepper strips and cucumber rounds or homemade fruit salad in a sturdy plastic container. Add a small container of yummy yogurt or hummus dip for extra appeal.
- Combine dried fruit like pineapple, mango, apricots, cranberries and raisins with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals and dark chocolate chips for a fun nut-free trail mix for kids to snack on at recess.
- Slip vegetable goodness in with thermos favourites like a tomato, minestrone, or alphabet soup.
- Bake veggies and fruit into snacking breads and muffins. Some favourites include banana, zucchini, carrot, raisins, dates and cranberry and orange.
Pet peeve # 2 - Same old, same old! Kids can only eat so many ham and cheese sandwiches before they get bored.
- Try mixing it up and let your creativity flow with theme days. Plan extras for dinner so you can send leftovers from some of your child's favourite meals for lunch. Make it pizza or lasagne for Italian day. Tacos or burritos are a hit for Mexican day. Sushi roll Japanese days are a fun change too.
- Ask your kids to make a list of some of their favourite lunch ideas to post on the fridge. If they're trading their lunch - find out what they're swapping it for. What do their friends bring that they would like?
- Even a small tweak like changing breads and fillings or cutting a sandwich into fun shapes can work. Take your kids to the grocery store and have them pick out a different fruit or whole grain bread to try this week.
- Take new ideas for a test run for lunch at home first before sending them to school. Cook up a new recipe and see if it will fly for lunch. Try making a nutritious treat together like mini homemade carrot or zucchini muffins.
Pet peeve # 3 - Soggy or smelly -Yuck! Who would like a warm mushy or smelly tuna or egg salad sandwich on wet bread?
- The D.I.Y. (do it yourself) concept works wonders. Kids love building things, so why not let them build their own sandwiches at school. It's as easy as packing a few fixings such as buns, sliced cheese, lean meats, lettuce and tomatoes in separate compartments or containers. Keep it simple enough so that kids can have fun and still have time to eat!
- Use just enough mayonnaise in sandwich fillings like tuna or egg salad to bind the ingredients - a little does the trick. Or try using a thin spread of flavoured cream cheese instead of mayonnaise on sandwich breads.
- And of course, always keep lunch fresh and safe by packing foods in an insulated lunch bag with a freezer pack or frozen juice box. Put foods that need to be kept hot like soup or cold like milk in a Thermos.