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.
    • With the ongoing pandemic, tell your child not to share food with others or take from others. Containers should also be easy to open so that they would not need help opening or unwrapping them.
  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.
  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

Article updated August 12, 2020.

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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 Dial-a-Dietician for more information.

Read the new Canada Food Guide for recipes and tips.

Immigrant Centre has Cooking and Nutrition Classes. These are free for newcomers of all English levels.

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

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