Most parents know that good nutrition is important to fuel our children’s active minds and healthy growing bodies. But did you know this?
When thinking about your children’s nutritional requirements, did you know that:
- Empty calories (e.g., candy and sweetened beverages) make up 20% of the total energy intake in Canadian school-aged children.
- 30% of Canadian children are not getting adequate calcium to support bone growth and development.
- 70% of school-age children in Canada do not get enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis (Canadian Community Health Survey).
Surprised? Not to worry. Here are some simple and easy ideas to help you send your kids off with a healthy lunch. These tips may actually save you time!
- Respect the feeding relationship. It is your role as a parent to determine what, where and when food is offered. It is your child’s role to figure out what and how much to eat. Pressuring or bribing children to eat large amounts or certain disliked foods will make the whole experience unpleasant. Offer a healthy variety of food groups and trust your child to eat how much he or she needs to eat.
- Make food fun by getting them involved in the kitchen. Kids can help with food prep, sandwich building, cleaning up and wrapping. Don’t be afraid to involve them in meal planning. Let them pick one or two items from at least three different food groups.
- Make lunches the night before. You may find mornings a lot less hectic.
- Be ready for hunger to strike. Stock up on ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables such as carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, berries and bananas at the beginning of the week. Buy individual yogurt containers, cheese strings and milk cartons.
- Plan ahead. Double up that dinner recipe and freeze some in individual containers. You’ve got homemade microwave lunches ready to go.
- Do not make any foods taboo. Aim for fewer treats, less often. In this way, you can teach your children where these foods fit in, and they will be able to make wise choices when they grow up.
Here are some healthier treat ideas that are great for school lunches:
Healthier snack mix
Instead of chips, mix plain popcorn with whole grain pretzels and cheese-flavoured whole grain crackers.
Instead of a fruit roll up, mix fresh, cut up fruit with dried mangoes, cranberries, blueberries and cherries.
Instead of chocolate-covered granola bars, offer low-fat chocolate milk or a mix of whole grain breakfast cereals with a few chocolate chips in an individual snack bag.
Finally, remember that parent modeling is one of the strongest predictors of children’s eating behaviours. So get crunching!
Material adapted from EatRight Ontario