Packing a lunch for your children at school can be a frustrating part of a parent's day. However, there are a few things that you can do to make it go a little more easy.
"First thing you want to do is plan, lots of planning," explained dietitian Barb Wright, a public health nutritionist for Sun Country Health Region, and mother of two. "That doesn't mean that you have to spend a whole bunch of time in the kitchen packing meals, but it does requite a little bit of time."
"Get the kids involved. Try and get them to list their favourite meals and snacks and you can brainstorms simple lunches and snacks."
She suggests first, to get a copy of Canada's Food Guide which can be found online.
"The rule of thumb with planning a meal is you want to make sure that you've got food from at least three, if not all four food groups present at a meal."
"Start off with your veggies. We usually do not eat enough fruits and vegetables so start off making a plan to have those at the meal. Then chose a grain product, milk and then some kind of meat or meat alternative so that could be leftover meat from the night before, or it could things like beans and dried peas."
She adds that for children, and adults as well, the big thing is choice.
"Maybe have the children choose three different things that they might want to have at a meal. When we put everything together in a soup or in a casserole, with all the four food groups in it, it's nutritionally balanced but sometimes it's boring for children after awhile. So try to make a plan to have a variety of different foods available."
"There's always the good old sandwich, piece of fruit and a carton of milk which a lot of us grew up on. But there are other things that could be done as well. So if you find that maybe sandwiches aren't your thing, you can look at crackers, meat from last night, some vegetable sticks and some grapes. Or if sandwiches are okay but you're finding them a little bit boring, switch up the bread. There's all kinds of different breads out there now and different fillings that you could mix and match."
She goes on to say that after you make your plan, take your children grocery shopping with you to get all the ingredients.
"The more you engage your children in packing the lunch, there's a greater chance that child is going to be involved in eating the lunch."
She adds that once you have all plan and all ingredients, make sure you have the containers to take that lunch to school.
"There's nothing like making a lunch and you've got the container but no lid."
"The lunch kits that are helpful are the ones that are insulated. So it helps to keep the cold foods cold and the hot foods hot. And also, use an ice pack in the lunches to keep your foods cold. You want to make sure the lunch kit is cleaned out everyday, throwing away all the leftover, unused foods and wiped out with warm, soapy water and left to dry."
She mentions that prepacked foods are handy but should not be used everyday.
"Prepackaged meals sometimes can work in a snap, if it is one of those crazy mornings. Keep in mind, a lot of these foods are high in salt and tend to not have a lot of fruit and vegetables. So if this is a once in a month, or once in a time, that you choose these, it's okay, but make sure to supplement them. Make sure that you have fruits and vegetables available as well."
"What might help with the prepackaged foods, is if you and your children decide how often that you would be offering theses foods. Because some kids enjoy the food and maybe their friends have it, so maybe choose once a week or every couple of weeks that it could be a special day that they have the prepackaged foods."
She also suggests making your own crackers with meat and cheese lunches.
"You can now get containers that are small containers that go into a larger container and you can put the crackers and the meat and the cheese and the fruits and vegetables it, much cheaper and much more healthy."