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What's for lunch? It's back to school time!

I cannot believe the summer has come and gone so quickly, but I am definitely looking forward to the fall. Anyone else feeling the same?

I enjoy the change in season, especially when fall comes around. It’s an opportunity to get back into a routine and embrace change.

With the change in season there is also a major change for families, because it’s back to school time! Sometimes back to school brings on stress, especially when it comes to packing healthy lunches. Many of my clients have been asking me to post on this topic, so today I am sharing my three steps to packing healthy lunches, my top five tips for parents, and some healthy lunch ideas and recipes!

What makes lunch so important?

  • School lunches and snacks provide students with the nutrients and energy they need to play, learn and grow

  • Students that consume healthy lunches on a regular basis have fewer chances of being tired and have a greater attention span

  • Nutrition can affect learning in terms of physical development (e.g., sight, memory, hyperactivity, etc.)

  • Decreased hunger = less room for unhealthy foods

I like to breakdown healthy lunches into three steps.

Step 1: Think BALANCED

To me balanced meals include five essential components (see image below)

Rule of thumb: aim to pack 3-4 of these components in your child’s lunch. For example, you might pack a protein, healthy grain, and fruits and veggies.

Mix and match items below to make your child’s lunch. You can even create your own chart (with the help of your child) based on foods they love or are willing to try. If you or your child don't eat dairy, you can use alternatives like dairy free cheese and coconut yogurt.

Step 2: Think outside the box

Sometimes changing something as simple as the grain you use can make lunch more interesting and enjoyable for your child. For example, rotate between sliced bread, dry cereal, crackers, tortillas, etc.

And remember it doesn’t have to be a meal. It doesn’t have to be leftovers or a sandwich. Think outside the box and make deconstructed lunches, like a bento box (see example below).

Step 3: Make a weekly plan

  • Plan your groceries around your lunch plan

  • What do you need?

  • Brainstorm with your child

  • Get them to help. Give them healthy options to choose from. Get your child involved in a way where you still make the ultimate decision. For example, have them pick which fruit or veggie they want in their lunch or have them pick between two snacks that you suggest. This way you both get some control over lunch time.

  • Make time to prep lunches and have your child help. They can pack items into their lunch box or help prepare sandwiches, and wash fruits and veggies.

Top Five Tips for Parents

  1. Switch to whole grains- E.g., whole grain bread, tortillas, even wholegrain Goldfish or bunny crackers! Whole grains provide more vitamins, minerals and fibre than refined grains and will help keep your child satisfied and energized post meal.

  2. Protein Packed - E.g., a can of tuna (usually contains from 16-30g of protein)/ tuna salad, hard boiled eggs, soy or seed butter (e.g., wow butter or sunflower seed butter). Protein will help to keep your child satisfied longer and will help them maintain a stable blood sugar which can help your child maintain focus longer.

  3. Add Colour - E.g., Fruit and vegetable skewers may be a fun way to make eating them more exciting, add hummus for veggie dipping, applesauce, guacamole, cutting up fruits into fun shapes. Fruits and veggies contain many important vitamins your child needs for energy, growth, and development.

  4. Hydrate - WATER! Avoid sugar sweetened beverages which can cause kids to have a sugar rush in class. Kids require more liquids than adults do so be sure to provide a large reusable water bottle. Purchasing a fun water bottle design your child finds visually appealing may increase their likelihood to drink. You can also try packing a reusable straw that is fun and will keep them interested in drinking water during lunch and snack meals.

  5. Treat Smart - Aim for treats to have less than 8g of sugar per serving . This is a great way to control sugar intake but also give your child something to look forward to at lunchtime. Perhaps even make some homemade treats that are school friendly. Click here to download four delicious treat recipes that are perfect for school lunches.

Some general tips:

  • Keep it cold: Sandwiches can be kept frozen in freezer the night before and put in lunch frozen. Throughout the day the sandwich will thaw and by the time lunchtime comes around it will be the perfect temperature.

  • Keep it Hot : Use a thermos for food items such as soups, pastas, chili, etc.

Lunch Ideas:

Options 2-4 can be packed with additional items, like fruit, veggies, or healthy fat sources.

1. Bento Box Lunch (personal favourite)

  • Purchase a compartment bento Tupperware box to make mealtime more fun

  • Fill compartments based on the five mealtime essentil components mentioned above (protein, grains, dairy and alternatives, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats)

Example Bento Box Lunch:

Compartment 1 (Fruit and Veggies): Grapes and Sliced Cucumber

Compartment 2 (Healthy Fats): Cubed Cheese

Compartment 3 (Protein): Scrambled Eggs, Chicken or Tuna Salad

Compartment 4 (Healthy Grains): Whole Wheat Crackers

Compartment 5 (Sweet Treat – OPTIONAL): Homemade Mini Muffin

2. Sandwich or Tortilla Rollups

  • Take a slice of whole-grain bread and roll it out thin using a rolling pin or use a whole grain tortilla

  • Add your favourite spread (E.g., Light cream cheese, hummus, soy or seed butter)

  • Add your favourite veggie toppings (E.g., cucumbers, red peppers, thin sliced carrots, celery). Topping can also include fruit, meats, cheeses etc.

  • Roll up the ingredients!

  • Slice the cylinder roll to create 4-5 mini “sushi” sandwich bites

3. Breadstick Rolls or Cracker Sandwiches

  • Use whole-grain large breadsticks

  • Wrap your favourite thin-sliced deli meat (look for low sodium and nitrate free options) around the breadstick for a more interesting presentation

  • Use your child's favourite cracker and pack with some sliced or cubed cheese and deli meat for mini sandwiches

4. Chia Seed Pudding

  • Use 2 tbsp. of chia seeds and mix into ½ cup milk of choice

  • Add 1-2 tsp maple syrup or jam

  • Add ½ tsp cocoa powder OR cinnamon (Optional)

  • Let sit overnight- the next morning the mixture will thicken and resemble a pudding treat. Top with fresh fruit, dark chocolate chips or anything else your child might like.

I hope this post gave you some back to school inspiration, if you are in need of additional support please connect with me.

Cheers to happy and healthy eating!

Until next time,

Eat Right Feel Right - Angela and Victoria XO

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