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Written by Jane Wark, Registered Dietitian

School lunches made easy

02/09/2015 9:02:20 AM | 0 comments |
As a dietitian, I often hear from parents who are worried that their child isn’t eating the lunch they have packed for school. I get it. As parents, we want to make sure our kids are getting enough food. We see them come home at 3:30, famished, and we ask why they didn’t eat their lunch. The usual response my kids give is “I didn’t have time”. Lunch breaks are short, and playing with friends seems to be the kids’ priority.    

To be honest, a child not eating their lunch doesn’t worry me. Over the course of a day, kids will eat the amount of food they need. Some kids will eat a big breakfast and a very small morning snack. Others might eat very little at lunch but have a large snack after school. Appetites vary throughout the day, and that’s okay. Kids won’t starve themselves.      

If your child arrives home from school hungry, take advantage of that hunger to get some healthy food in. When kids are hungry they are more likely to eat whatever your serve. Have a large plate of fresh vegetables and dip ready to go for after school snack. If your child hasn’t eaten their lunch, odds are they will quickly dig in.     

The reality is we can’t make our kids eat their lunch. In fact, we shouldn’t push kids to eat. Research has shown that trying to control how much your child eats can backfire, leading kids to under-eat, or over-eat. What we can do is offer a variety of healthy foods at scheduled times throughout the day. Leave it up to your child to decide how much or how little to eat. This approach will allow children to respond to their natural hunger and fullness cues and eat the amount their body needs.

Simple, nutritious and kid-approved ideas

Instead of sandwiches
  • whole grain pancakes or waffles with fruit and yogurt
  • build your own pizza with English muffin or pita, tomato sauce, toppings and grated cheese
  • falafel, whole wheat pita, veggies
  • pasta salad, milk, fruit
  • hard-boiled egg, whole grain crackers, red pepper strips
  • soft taco with bean dip, veggies
  • unsweetened dry cereal with milk or yogurt and fresh fruit
  • homemade whole grain muffins
    • banana bran muffin and cheese
    • oatmeal carrot muffin and cottage cheese
    • cornmeal muffin with BBQ chicken or chili
    • bran muffin with yogurt and veggie sticks
Cold re-runs
  • left over pizza
  • kabobs (eg. meat or chicken, cheese, fruit, veggies)
  • burrito with refried beans, cheese, tomato
  • whole wheat steamed Asian bun
  • homemade baked samosas
  • Vietnamese salad rolls
  • chicken drumstick
Hot re-runs
  • stew
  • curry
  • chili
  • casserole
  • stir-fried vegetables with tofu
  • perogies/potstickers
  • spaghetti and meatballs
  • macaroni and cheese
  • baked beans
  • soup or chowder
Dunk a Lunch
  • hummus, bean or cottage cheese dip served with assorted veggies and pita bread cut into triangles
  • fresh cut fruit and yogurt
  • French toast with yogurt or applesauce
  • whole grain bread sticks with fresh tomato salsa and guacamole
Follow the Milky Way
  • carrot, celery or  bread sticks wrapped in cheese
  • cored apple filled with cheese chunks
  • finely grated cheese rolled into small balls
  • chilled milk or fortified soy drink
  • milk-based pudding
  • yogurt parfait: layer plain yogurt, fruit and granola or a high fibre cereal
Little Extras: non-food treats
  • special napkin or straw
  • sticker
  • picture
  • funny joke, poem or note
For more school lunch stories, see Healthier You: Summer 2015 magazine.
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