Healthy Lunches - images of kids

6 healthy school lunch ideas your kids will actually eat

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!

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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’.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Muffins

    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


EatRight Ontario

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

Health Canada

Top 10 sun and water safety tips

This post was written in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

Keep your family safe this summer by following these tips on sun and water safety:

Girls playing outisde

1. Choose a high SPF sunscreen: Use sunscreen labelled “broad spectrum” and “water resistant” with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 on skin not covered by clothing. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply every two hours and after swimming.

2. Protect yourself: When the UV Index is three or higher, protect your skin as much as possible. Wear clothing and a wide-brimmed hat that covers as much skin as possible, as appropriate to the activity and weather. Wear sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses with UV-protective lenses. Seek shade or bring your own (ex. an umbrella).

3. Limit time in the sun: Try and limit your time out in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. (even on a cloudy day) when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. When your shadow is shorter than you, the sun is very strong. Be sure to wear protective clothing and sunscreen, and stay in the shade when possible.

4. Never leave children alone: Even if it’s just for a moment, make sure you never leave children alone when in or around water. Close supervision by a responsible adult is the best way to ensure your children are safe.

5. Start swimming lessons: Children may be at a lower risk of drowning if they’ve had some formal swimming instructions. However, the decision to enrol a child in swimming lessons should be made by the parents based on the child’s developmental readiness and exposure to water. Swim programs should never be seen as “drown proofing” a child of any age.

6. Avoid fast moving water: Never let your child swim in canals or any fast moving water. Educate your children on rip currents, so they are prepared in the event they get caught in one.

7. Test for an allergic reaction: Before using any sunscreen on your child, check for an allergic reaction, especially if they have sensitive skin. Apply to a small patch of skin on the inner forearm for several days in a row. If the skin turns red or otherwise reacts, change products.

8. Look for “water resistant”: When buying sunscreen, look for claims on the label that the product stays on better in water (“water resistant”, “very water resistant”).

9. Keep rescue equipment nearby: When swimming, keep some type of rescue equipment (shepherd’s hook, a long pole, life preserver, etc.) and a cell phone with you. Make sure your rescue equipment is made of fibreglass or other materials that do not conduct electricity.

10. Use a life jacket: Blow-up water wings, “floaties”, toys, rafts and air mattresses should not be used as life jackets or personal flotation devices. They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children and parents a false sense of security. Remember to supervise your children closely even when they are wearing a life jacket.

Have a safe and happy summer!

Content from the following websites was used as resource material:

Five SCDSB schools achieve Healthy Schools status

Health and wellness in schools has been a priority of the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) for many years. From outdoor education to nutrition, health is a major component of daily school activities and learning. Students and staff are making a big impact in their school communities with their participation in Green Teams, mental health initiatives and more.

This past spring, five of our elementary schools were recognized for their efforts and given Healthy Schools certification as part of Ophea’s Healthy Schools Certification program:

  • Brechin PS, Gold
  • Alliston Union PS, Silver
  • Goodfellow PS, Silver
  • Wyevale Central PS, Silver
  • Clearview Meadows ES, Bronze

The program involves an extensive amount of planning and implementation towards a six-step process, including assessing school community needs, identifying a priority health topic, developing an action plan and monitoring progress.

These five schools were dedicated to improving health and wellness, and focused on the following initiatives:

Brechin PS

  • Student Mental Health Team created a new, safe space called the Peace Place for students to enjoy and de-stress

Alliston Union PS  

  • Positive quotes shared during morning announcements
  • Pom Pom Pals: students created pals out of pom poms to share with classmates that are feeling down
  • Family Movie Night: families invited to watch ‘Inside Out’ and participate in button-making activities

Goodfellow PS

  • Build a Better Me Day: students participated in a day dedicated to mindful activities and learning about mental health
  • Mind Up Day: students rotated around stations to practice Mind Up strategies and learned how these can benefit their mental health
  • The Big Crunch: learning about nutrition positively impacting mental health in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

Wyevale Central PS

  • Extensive participation in the SCDSB’s Pedometer Project
  • Student leaders facilitated sports, games and more for the school community each day
  • Incorporated DPA (daily physical activity) in all school activities and events

Clearview Meadows ES 

  • Mindful Mondays: meditation in the library facilitated by Grade 8 students
  • Brain Gym, Free the Numb Bumb and GoNoodle activities for Grades 1-4
  • Calming music and videos on the main foyer TV
  • Class sets of yoga mats available for use
  • Grade 4-8 students participated in the Can You Feel It stress management program delivered by Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

Congratulations to all of our Healthy Schools on a job well done!

Gifts for our Tiny Teachers

Roots of Empathy Baby Celebration 2017

On May 29, the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) celebrated our sixth year of Roots of Empathy, a unique program that brings a Tiny Teacher – a baby in their first months of life – into elementary classrooms. The 2016-17 school year saw Roots of Empathy in almost 30 SCDSB schools, led by volunteers, SCDSB staff and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) Public Health Nurses.

This year we celebrated the remarkable contributions of all of our Roots of Empathy instructors, families and babies with a picnic at the Education Centre. Hope Park, a volunteer instructor who has been facilitating the program in the SCDSB since 2012, was honoured for five years of service with the program. Director of Education Steve Blake and many SCDSB superintendents of education were in attendance to meet and thank our little ones and their families, and acknowledge the power of the program and the work of all of our Roots of Empathy Instructors.


Roots of Empathy is an international evidence-based program that started in Toronto. By observing the growth and development of the baby and the attachment between the baby and their parents, students in Roots programs learn to be more caring and empathic global citizens. Since 2000, the program has been evaluated in numerous independent research studies, which have shown that children who participate in the program demonstrate decreased aggression and increased social and emotional understanding, empathy, knowledge of parenting and pro-social behavior (e.g. sharing, helping and including). This program supports our board’s work to ensure equitable, inclusive, safe and caring schools.

For further information, please contact the Roots of Empathy key point persons for the SCDSB, Stephanie Ross and Denise Cole, at

Everyday superheroes

From June 5-11 2017, communities across Canada will be celebrating Parachute Safe Kids Week. This year’s theme “everyday superhero” encourages children to become leaders in road safety by learning how to keep themselves and others safe when they walk, bike or wheel.

Want to get involved? Here are some ideas to get you started:

At school:
• Take a picture showing your class’ pledge to be an #everydaysuperhero using Parachute’s online poster
• Create a bulletin board or art display to share road safety messages and honour your everyday superheroes
• Lead a walk around the school neighbourhood and have students identify safe or unsafe things they notice, then challenge them to come up with solutions
• Recruit a team of student leaders to organize school-wide activities to promote and celebrate road safety

In the classroom:
• The Ontario Road Safety resource provides complete lessons for teaching age-appropriate road safety information. Cross-curricular lessons are available for Kindergarten through Grade 12.
• The TD Think First for Kids program teaches children how to think first and play safely to prevent brain and spinal cord injuries. The resources (available in both English and French) meet Ontario curriculum requirements and are endorsed by Curriculum Services Canada.
• Create a free account, or log into Ophea teaching tools to access lesson plans, curriculum supplements and activities on a range of health topics

At home:
• Teach your child the importance of wearing a helmet and how to make sure it fits properly
• Be a good example by wearing a helmet too
• Set clear, age appropriate safety rules and supervise closely. Children under 10 should not ride on the road alone. They need to practice building safety skills in a safe environment with adults around to role-model and supervise.

Join us in celebrating Safe Kids Week. Share your ideas and everyday superhero moments on Twitter @SMHealthySchool using the hashtag #everydaysuperhero.
~ Stephanie Ross RN

Have more questions? Visit the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s website or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 to speak with a public health nurse.