By Jennifer Schembri
Eating a nutritious breakfast is a great way for kids to stay energized throughout the morning. But by the time the noon-hour lunch bell rings, your child’s energy levels may have dropped and their concentration levels may begin to decrease.
“Packing a healthy lunch for your child that includes at least three of the four food groups from Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) will help them meet their nutrient needs, and a variety of choices helps avoid the boredom that can come from eating the same foods day in, day out,” says Carla Diano, a Toronto-based registered dietitian and nutrition consultant.
Diano suggests making healthy lunches fun by asking children to help choose lunch foods during grocery shopping trips, including them in lunch preparation and considering their needs and preferences by combining new foods with old favourites.
Diano says while it’s difficult to say exactly how many calories a school-aged child needs at lunchtime, there are basic guidelines to follow.
“The amount of calories a child needs is not easy to generalize and usually depends on age, gender and level of physical activity,” she says. “In general, however, lunch can be approximately 350 to 450 calories and snacks from approximately 100 to 150 calories.”
LUNCH CHOICES TO GET YOU STARTED
Here are some ideas for tasty and nutritious snacks, sandwiches or other main course items, and desserts to give that lunch bag an extra punch this fall.
*Please note: Calorie amounts provided are approximate and depend on the specific nutrient content and method of preparation of a particular product (i.e. different brands of same product may have different calorie amounts). The lunch bag options provided are both brand-name products available in Canada as well as generic foods and food products.
“These should be select foods from one or two of the four food groups,” says Diano.
( Canada’s Food Guide divides food into four main categories: Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives.)
“These may contain foods from only two of the four food groups and need to be rounded out with fruit and beverage, usually milk or even a yogurt or a dessert and beverage,” says Diano.