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Four tips to healthy, kid-friendly packed lunch

As parents, we do our best to keep our kids happy and healthy. We spend time planning meals to ensure our kids are getting the nutrition they need. But let’s be honest, it’s hard to control what our kids are eating when they’re not at home.

With the summer now more than a month behind us and the kids back in school, parents across the province are getting back into the routine of packing a lunch for their school-aged kids.

The first few months of “back to school” logistics can be both exciting and stressful for kids and parents alike. There are new schedules and routines, earlier mornings and more hustle and bustle as the entire family heads out the door for their busy day.

From picky eaters to a lack of time, it can be easy to fall into the same routine of throwing a sandwich and snack into a lunch-box and rushing out the door.

Here are some tips on packing a healthy, kid-friendly lunch you’ll love and so will your kids.

1. Plan and prepare in advance

 To avoid the typical ‘What do you want for lunch today?’ discussion each morning, sit down with your children and plan what their lunches will consist of for the week. This will ensure variety and that your kids are getting the healthy foods they like the best. Keep this schedule in the kitchen where both you and your kids can see it. This way, your kids will know what to expect when they open their lunch-box and you’ll know what to pick up at the grocery store for the week.

To save time in the morning, make the kids’ lunches the night before. Take a glance at your lunch schedule and prepared them before bed, instead of before you walk out the door.

2. Keep it healthy

Planning what your children are eating can also help you keep track of their nutrition. It is recommended that children consume servings from at least three of the food groups in every lunch meal. If your child’s preference is to have variety in their lunches, there are many alternatives to the classic ‘sandwich, fruit and milk’. Leftovers from the previous evening’s meal, yogurt, crackers and cheese or hummus, raw vegetables and unique sandwich fillings are all great alternative lunch ideas.

Another benefit to keeping a lunch schedule is limiting the amount of times your child purchases hot lunch or food items from the cafeteria. Typically, foods from the school cafeteria are usually higher in sodium and generally not as healthy. Buying lunch is more expensive and less nutritious. Limit buying lunch to once every other week or even once a month as a treat.

3. Keep it fun

Sometimes the difference between your child eating the apple you pack or discretely throwing it out can be the size. Little pieces are less daunting to little fingers. Apple pieces, though a small change, can make a big difference. Smaller pieces are a good idea for all snacks you pack. Cut up fruit, small pieces of cheese and even cutting sandwiches into smaller pieces can make it seem more fun. When making a lunch for your child, keep it kid-sized.

4. Involve the kids

To ensure your kids are going to love what they have for lunch, involve them in the nightly process of lunch-making. Making their own creations can ensure they’ll be proud of their lunch the next day and be excited to eat it. In addition, you’ll be promoting healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

What are some of your favourite healthy kid-friendly lunch ideas?