Back-to-school time can be stressful for both kids and parents, for a variety of reasons. As a dietitian, a common concern I hear from parents is, “Is my child eating enough food at school?” When summer suddenly ends, we lose sight of our kids for a good chunk of the day, five days a week. How can we be sure that they’re eating well and enough without us there?
The truth is, we can’t. But, we can set our kids up for success by making school lunches a fun, engaging process that’s focused on quality of foods over quantity. Here are some simple tips and tricks for taking the drama and worry out of school lunches, for parents and kids alike:
• Plan ahead, packing the night before lowers the stress for everyone and allows time for children to be involved in making their lunches:
• Make larger batches of healthy lunch foods so that they are easily available during the week. For example:
o make a large pasta, rice or barley salad with vegetables, cheese, and meat or beans
o hard boil a dozen eggs so they are ready to put in whole or use to make egg salad
o cut up fresh vegetables and fruit at the beginning of the week so you don’t have to do this every day
o individually freeze home made muffins or home made granola bars (nut free of course) so they are ready to grab
• Finding nut free snacks for lunches can be a challenge for families. Often parents end up relying on store bought granola bars or gummy “fruit” snacks that are high in sugar and low in fibre. Here are some other options:
o have your child help you make a personalized trail mix (include sunflower seeds, dried fruit, whole grain pretzels and whole grain cereals)
o air popped popcorn is a great healthy and inexpensive snack option
o pretzels, if your child enjoys dips add in humus
o home made muffins using whole grain flour are a great option, there are so many great recipes online
o and of course fresh fruit and vegetables
Outside of school hours, cooking and eating food together as a family is a great way to model healthy eating with your children. Chances are they’ll carry those habits with them to school and even into their adult years.