Dana Hawthorne, RD and Danielle Labonte RD,
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
Children spend about 40% of their waking hours at school, so the meals and snacks they eat there are a major source of the energy and nutrients they need to grow, learn, play and develop. Most schools have a meal or snack program that is available for all students; talk to your child’s teacher or principal to learn more.
When packing a school lunch, try to pack at least 3 of the 4 food groups. A whole grain pita stuffed with cheese, chicken breast, cucumber and carrot includes a choice from each food group: Vegetables and Fruit, Meat & Alternatives, Grains, and Milk & Alternatives. For more ideas, check out our “What’s For Lunch?” resource by typing in the search bar at healthunit.org. Pack a kid-friendly lunch by using easy to open containers, removing peels and packaging, and packing foods that look like food, as food that looks like toys, may be played with instead of eaten. Small sized and finger foods are easier for little fingers to handle. Match portions of foods to your child’s appetite as large portions can be overwhelming. Involve kids in planning and packing their lunch – they are more likely to eat meals and snacks when they help make them.
Remember to use an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack or reusable frozen water bottle for foods that need to stay cold. For foods that need to stay warm, heat a thermos with boiling water for a few minutes, empty water then add food that has been heated to steaming hot, at least 74°C on a food thermometer. Keep lunches in the fridge until your child is leaving for school. Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly, and do not reuse perishable foods, like meat, fish, poultry or milk products that come home from school uneaten.
For more information, visit the health unit’s website at healthunit.org, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or call the Health Action Line at 1-800-660-5853.