The Recipe for Great School Lunches & Snacks

The kids are back to school and we need to start the year off right when it comes to snacks and lunches. It can be tough to figure out what to put in your child’s tummy as there are many factors that should be considered: health, nutrition, food safety, ready to eat, etc. Lunch and snack foods directly impact your child’s ability to concentrate, participate and stay motivated in the classroom. When considering what to pack for your child’s school lunch and snack, we must be aware of how it is affecting their learning.

A few factors to consider when packing lunches:

  • Nutrition
  • Safety
  • Amount
  • Variety
  1. Health and Nutrition

Your child will consume at least one snack and one meal per day at school for 10 months out of the year, making school lunch a major source of essential nutrition. It is important that lunches and snacks be healthy and contain the vitamins and minerals that are necessary for proper development. It can be tempting to pack pre-packaged food, however, these foods often have low nutrition and high sodium.  Although this is the most convenient choice for working parents, try to spend extra time preparing a well balanced meal.  The extra time spent will be well worth it for their future. A great approach to packing a well balanced lunch and snack is by following Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

  • Consider packing at least one fruit and one vegetable every day. Kids generally eat vegetables that are mild in flavor, naturally sweet and chopped up. To prevent browning on chopped fruit, squirt fruit with some lemon or lime juice.
  • Be sure to pack a carbohydrate-rich food to ensure proper energy until dinner. Good carbs involve whole grains, which contain fiber. Fiber will slow down the digestion of the food, keeping the tummy feeling satisfied.  Try to avoid refined grains and simple sugars which will only lead to a sugar high and then quick decrease in energy.

Try some of these ideas for lunch this week:

Table derived from Eat Right Ontario:

2.      Food Safety
Ah yes, food safety – something we seem to forget about when caught up in the hustle and bustle of getting the kids to school in the morning! In September, we make an effort to make sure lunch boxes are clean, but as the year progresses, we tend to get busy and forget how sticky and smelly a lunch box can get. In addition to unsanitary lunch boxes, let’s not forget about the lack of refrigeration and heating methods for food at school. Foods that normally require refrigeration will be at room temperature for 4-5 hours before being consumed.  

Consider these food safety tips when packing school lunches:

  • Wrap cutlery
  • Keep lunch in the fridge until it is time to catch the bus
  • Freeze juice boxes and use as ice packs to keep items cold
  • Use a thermos for hot foods like soup
  • Use a plastic bag for condiments. Cut the tip of the bag when ready to use and squeeze it out like a piping bag. No mess and can be degraded afterwards.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before chopping
  • Wash out lunch box daily with soapy water