It’s almost September, which means back-to-school time and a return to the daily routine of packing school lunches. Let’s admit it . . . we as parents all resort to store-bought granola bars, applesauce and drinking boxes at some point, but with the options below, hopefully you’ll start out this school year on a healthier note!
Water and milk are best to drink
Find a cool, reusable drinking container you kid loves (maybe an Elsa or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle will do the trick) and use a fun cooler pack or freeze the water container to use as a cooler pack to keep the drink cold throughout the day.
Soup, chili or pasta
If you make a slow cooker meal on the weekend (or also a great idea for those busy weeknights when you don’t have time to cook!), ensure there is extra for lunch leftovers. One of my son’s favourite is this carrot and lentil soup (he calls it “honey soup!”). Warm a thermos with hot water for a few minutes, then heat the food and place in the thermos. This should keep it warm enough for the first nutrition break.
Cheese and crackers
Look for low-fat flavoured rice cakes and whole grain crackers. If your child doesn’t like cheese, try some yogurt. Add a protein like turkey or chicken and kids can make cracker ‘sandwiches’.
Bread creativity: Wraps, pita and more
A great alternative to the traditional sandwich and there’s definitely more choice out there now compared to the Wonderbread we grew up with! Try different kinds of grains, flatbread or tortilla wraps with a variety of filling options – fruit, veggies, tuna, cooked egg, deli meat, etc. Let your kids pick out what they like.
Veggies/fruit and dip
Switch it up and try something new (snap peas and cauliflower or kiwi and strawberries). Your child can help prepare it and sort the foods by colour, shape or texture – a learning experience! Healthy dip options
include hummus, plain yogurt, guacamole or a low-fat salad dressing.
Muffins are quick and fun to make on the weekend with your kids, and are a great alternative to packaged granola bars and sugary gummy snacks. A few favourites in our house include: cranberry blueberry bran muffins, banana muffins and broccoli and cheese muffins.
For more ideas and tips, check out our Welcome to Kindergarten healthy eating video, featuring Andrew Hunter Elementary School students and created in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
Remember to label all containers with your child’s name and make sure your child can open and close the containers on their own. Use reusable containers to encourage waste-free lunches, and ask about classroom and school allergies so you are aware of what is safe to bring to school.
Also, encourage your child to help make and pack their own lunch and snacks – they will be more likely to eat it if they help prepare it. Even three, four and five year-olds can help pack the containers in their lunch bags. Healthy eating helps kids focus in the classroom and gives them the energy and nutrients they need to learn and play!
~ Melanie Rumley, Communications Specialist, SCDSB