Back to school, back to lunches

Healthy Bites

One of the challenges of being a parent is getting your child to eat healthy food.

Last year, I visited an inner-city after-school care program in New York. This was a government-subsidized program that provided the children with a four food group “healthy dinner.”

I was horrified.

TV-tray, vacuum –packed piles of re-thermed mush were on offer (or texturized meat patties with suspect gravy and mushy peas), and I watched  as each child took the dessert off the tray, and dumped the rest in the garbage.

Staff couldn’t say anything because they wouldn’t eat it either. The truth is we can’t force children to eat anything.

If we want our kids to eat healthy food, we have to make it both tasty and visually appealing.  So how can we pack a lunch that our kids will eat?

First of all, what makes a healthy lunch?

•Brain Fuel (carbohydrates): choose whole grain products such as bread, pitas, crackers, mini bagels, pasta, muffins, rice cakes.

•Protein: cheese, seeds, nuts (if allowed), meat, chicken, fish, beans, eggs, tofu.

•Colourful Crunch:  Our favourite fruits and veggies.

•Water: let them choose their own reusable water bottle.

Once we know our components, how can we ensure our kids will eat them?

•The best way is to involve your kids – children who help select and prepare their own lunches are more likely to eat them. Offer them choices between different healthy options.

•Don’t leave it to the last minute – have your kids make it the night before to prevent a hectic scramble in the morning.

•Don’t overpack – if your child’s lunch is too big, they will eat all the snack foods and treats and leave the rest (the sandwich, veggies…)

•Mix it up – don’t always send bread. Alternate with pita pockets, mini bagels, wraps or leftovers from supper.

•Make a nut-free trail mix with seeds, dried fruit and cereal. Sprinkle apple slices with a little cinnamon and sugar. Cut veggies into bite-size pieces and send with some interesting dip.

•Limit treats – as a culture, we need to learn that these are not every day foods.

Children get a lot of their daily nutrition at school, so it is important that they get healthy foods.

We now know that development of chronic disease can start in childhood, so working with them to find healthy foods they enjoy is a priority.

Involving children in the food preparation process is the best way to promote healthy eating.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.


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