Top 5 tips for preparing your kids’ school lunches

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Healthy and delicious school lunches

  1. Parents worry about what their children eat in school.
  2. They want to prepare food that kids will like and are healthy for them.
  3. Newcomer parents need to know what types of food their kids can bring to school. Is it OK to bring their traditional foods to school?

Five tips for good school lunches:

  1. Read the school’s food and nutrition policy

    • Manitoba schools have a school food and nutrition policy.
    • It has rules on:
      • “safe foods” your child is allowed to bring
      • healthy tips
      • information on lunch programs
      • rules on packaging food, handwashing and proper hygiene
    • Schools have strict food restrictions. The rules protect those with allergies.
      • They do not allow bringing peanut butter and peanut/nut products to school.
    • Inform the principal if your child has allergies.
      • Tell your child to eat only the food they brought from home.
      • Make an emergency plan for allergic reactions.
      • Tell them to bring an EpiPen®. Your child should bring this if they will be going out on a field trip.
  2. Plan meals together with your child

    • Plan school lunches with your child.
    • Ask them to make a list of what they want to eat. Check the list with them.
    • Replace ingredients in junk food. Use whole grain wheat and add vegetables in pizza and pasta for example.
    • Listen to their concerns about smell, packaging and others.
    • Don’t pack foods that are messy to eat.
    • Check school policies about the microwave use. Schedule soups and other food for hot lunches when allowed.
  3. Go for variety

    • Don’t prepare the same kind of food every day.
    • Make different types of meals for your child.
    • Make hot lunches in winter.
    • Try different types of bread. Use bagels or croissants for sandwiches.
    • Make a wrap instead of a sandwich.
    • Give them different food textures.
      • Try crunchy vegetables like baby carrots or cucumber.
      • Pair apples and pears to sandwiches or soups and salads.
      • Give kids fruits and vegetables for snacks.
    • Make foods native to your country.
      • Allow your child to bring native foods.
      • Make sure they do not have ingredients that can cause allergies (like peanuts).
      • This is a great way to keep your child in touch with his heritage.
      • It will also develop his taste for different cuisines.
  4. Follow suggested guidelines for foods

    • Don’t buy ready-to-eat meals (Lunchables for example).
    • These meals lack nutrients.
    • They may have preservatives that can harm your child’s health.
    • Download the Manitoba School Nutrition Handbook by Healthy Child Manitoba. It is a great guide for healthy eating.
      • It has a list of food from each food group.
      • It has tips on appropriate serving sizes. It tells you what to check in labels.
      • It will help you make nutritious food choices.
    • Read Healthy Food in Schools from Manitoba gov. It contains resources, tips, and school lunch suggestions. It promotes healthy eating for schoolkids.
    • Read How can I make brown bag lunches quickly that everyone will like? by the Dieticians of Canada. It has suggestions for office lunches which you and your child might like.
  5. Don’t forget the water

    • Keep your child hydrated. Water is the best choice.
    • Juice, sports drinks and soda may contain too much sugar or caffeine. These cause obesity and damage teeth.
    • Choose 100% fruit juice if your kids like it.
    • Milk is another good choice.
      • Kids ages 2-3 should drink 2 cups (480 ml.) per day
      • kids 4-8, 2 1/2 cups (600 ml)
      • kids older than 9, 3 cups (720 ml) (according to kidshealth.org)

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Community Resources

Consult a dietician. It is free. Call 1-877-830-2892 or 204-788-8248 in Winnipeg. Go to WRHA for more information.

Check out Immigrant Centre’s Nutrition Services. They have free cooking and nutrition programs for newcomers of all English levels.

Check out Food Matters Manitoba’s programs for healthy eating for newcomers.

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