As part of the Ministry of Education’s Healthy Schools Approach, Queen Elizabeth School is part of the Wellness-Oriented School program. This program is intended primarily to improve young people’s success in school through physical activity and good nutrition. For your convenience, we have put together some information on healthy lunches and snacks.
To help promote a healthy lifestyle the school provides the students with a healthy snack twice a week. This snack is meant as a supplement, it does not replace the snack that the students bring from home.
Why are healthy lunches and snacks important at school?
Your child’s school lunches and snacks are a major source of the essential vitamins and minerals they need to grow and develop over the years.
The foods you pack for your child will give them the energy and nutrients they need to learn and play at school. Without enough energy from food, they may feel tired and find it difficult to concentrate in class. Just like adults, if tasty healthy foods are not available when your child is hungry, the chances that he or she will reach for unhealthy junk food is greater.
What’s a good approach to building a healthy lunch? (see chart and menu ideas)
Step one: Think food groups. Aim to have at least three of the four food group represented in your child’s lunch. Check out Canada’s Food Guide to review the food groups.
Step two: Think outside the sandwich! Get creative when choosing items for your child’s lunch. Sometimes changing something as simple as the type of grain, for example; using pita, flatbread, tortilla, or cereal instead of bread can make lunch more interesting for your little eater. You may even want to write up a simple chart to brainstorm different options. Here are some ideas to get you started. Mix and match the options in the different columns to get a variety of lunch meals.
|Veggies and Fruit
|Pepper strips (red, green, yellow)
|Tortillas, flatbread, nann or pita bread
|Peas in a pod or snow pea pods
|Whole grain crackers
|Bran or oatmeal muffins
|Cauliflower and broccoli trees
|Rice cakes or bread sticks
|Pasta, brown rice
|Milk and Alternatives
|Meat and Alternatives
|Fruit yogurt or soy yogurt
|Hard cooked egg
|Yogurt dip for veggies
|Tuna, salmon or chicken salad flavoured with: curry, onions, light mayo, pickles, apples, walnuts, or dill
|Cottage or ricotta cheese cups
|Cheese cubes, cheese string or cheese slices
|Refried or baked beans
|Cheese-filled pasta (cannelloni, ravioli)
|Almonds or sunflower seeds
Foods that need to be kept cold or hot can be packed into a thermos to keep the food at a safe temperature. Cold foods can also be stored with an ice pack or frozen juice box.
Note: Milk is offered to the students daily and microwave ovens are available for students to warm up their lunch.
What should I do for snacks?
As you plan snacks, think of them as a “mini meal” that includes two of the four food groups. Try these simple nutritious snack ideas:
- Whole grain crackers and cheese
- Fresh cut fruit alone or with a yogurt dip
- Fruit cup
- Trail mix. Combine dried cranberries, raisins, dried apricots, and apple rings with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, along with your kid’s favourite cold cereal.
- Yogurt tube or cup
- Oatmeal muffin or bar
- Fresh cut vegetables
- Granola bar (without chocolate or chocolate chips)
- Apple sauce
- Cereal or fruit bar
My children want the same thing to eat everyday. How can I introduce some new lunch ideas?
Your child’s taste may change from one day to the next. Try new foods regularly and don’t be afraid to try them more than once. You may have to offer new foods many times before your children learn to like them!
Children experience food using taste, touch and sight. Keep them interested with lunches that include a variety of shapes, colours and textures.
Cut sandwiches into triangles or diamonds. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes.
Change the bread – try different kinds of grains (rye, pumpernickel, flax) as well as the type of bread like whole grain tortillas, bagels and pitas.
Offer various types of cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, Jack, Swiss) in different forms (cubes, strings, slices and balls). To create a cheese ball, shred and then shape into balls.
Switch up the veggies and fruit. Give your kids something different to experience with each bite. Group foods according to: Type (citrus, tropical.); color (green, red, orange, yellow, purple); shape (balls, strips, chunks, whole); or texture (soft, juicy, crunchy)
Kids love to dip. Use cottage cheese, hummus, yogurt, or guacamole as healthy dips.
How do I involve my child in deciding what to have for lunch and snacks?
From planning to packing, get everyone in the family involved when making lunches and snacks.
Give them healthy options to pick from – they will be more likely to eat a lunch that they choose.
Older children can help make sandwiches or stuff pitas, while younger children can place snacks into containers.
Take your children grocery shopping and let them choose some of their favourite foods like breads, vegetables, fruit and yogurts.
What foods should I keep on hand for preparing healthy lunches and snacks?
Pick a few from each list to keep on hand so that you’ll always have healthy foods to pack in the lunchbox.
In the pantry:
- Whole grain breads
- Ready to eat cereals
- Whole grain crackers
- Canned and dried fruit
- Canned tuna and salmon
- Canned legumes like chick peas, black beans, baked beans in tomato sauce
- Seeds and tree nuts or pre-mixed trail mix
In the fridge:
- Yogurt (fruit yogurt, yogurt drinks, plain yogurt for dips, soy yogurt)
- Cheese (block cheese or cheese strings, cottage cheese, cream cheese)
- Fresh vegetables and fruit
In the freezer:
- Whole grain pita and tortillas – they don’t take up much space and you can use just one at a time. They defrost easily in the microwave.
- Leftovers like chili, lasagna, and soups in single-serving containers. (When you pack leftovers don’t forget to label and date).
- 100% juice boxes for keeping lunch cool
In the cupboard:
- Reusable containers and cutlery
- Small plastic bags
- Cloth or paper napkins
- Lunch boxes or cloth bags
Helpful hint: Set aside time in the evening to pack lunches and snacks. You’ll be happy you did during the next day’s busy morning rush!
How do I know how much food to give my child for lunch?
Use Canada’s Food Guide to figure out how many servings are recommended from each food group for your child. Then take that number and divide it by three (ie: 3 meals).
Every child has different energy needs, which can change from day to day and over time. Some schools send uneaten food home so parents will know how much their child has eaten, which can be helpful. Involve your child in planning lunches so that they can help you figure out how much food they need.
During growth spurts, a time when your child is growing very quickly, he or she may feel hungrier and want more to eat. It’s a good idea to send ‘extra’ snack foods that won’t spoil (such as an apple, whole grain crackers or almonds) for your child to munch if hungry, or save for another day.
How do I make sure my child’s lunch and snacks are safe to eat?
- Keep these food safety tips in mind when packing your child’s school lunch and snacks.
- As with any meal, always wash your hands first.
- Prepare your child’s lunch on a clean surface using clean utensils.
- Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly (even if labeled “pre-washed”) before cutting them or placing them into your child’s lunch bag.
- Do not reuse perishable foods (meat, fish, poultry and milk products) that come home uneaten from your child’s lunch.
- Keep lunches in the fridge until your child is leaving for school.
- Use an insulated lunch bag with a small ice pack for foods that need to stay cool. A frozen juice box or bottle of water can also help keep foods cold.
- Put foods that need to stay hot in a thermos. A thermos is also good for smoothies and milk.
- Be sure to keep reusable containers clean by washing well with warm soapy water.