Ready or not, back to school season is here! As summer traditions come to an end, it’s time to focus again on healthy eating. Getting back on track for the school year can be easier than you think, according to Jill Skube, Registered Dietitian for Pediatrics at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Skube has some tips for busy families who want to eat healthy, balanced lunches.
“Try making lunches the night before. Mornings are usually busy in most households, so having lunches ready in advance ensures that everyone will have a healthy lunch ready to grab on the way out the door,” says Skube. You can also look for time on the weekends to prep snacks. Skube suggests “Setting aside one hour on a Sunday to cut up vegetables or fruit and portion into small bags for the week makes sure that healthy snacks are easy to throw into lunches in a time crunch.” Lastly, cooking extra at supper time is a time-saving tip that Skube recommends, as leftovers can be a great option for a lunch.
Deciding on what to include in lunches can also be a difficult task. How do we know if the lunches we are eating are balanced, or even healthy? Skube says, “A balanced lunch should aim to include at least three out of four food groups.” According to Canada’s Food Guide, this means that vegetables and fruits, grain products, meat and alternatives, and milk and alternatives should be represented in every meal. There are many healthy examples of each food group that can be included in lunches:
Vegetables and Fruits: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and broccoli
Grain Products: whole grain crackers, brown rice, and quinoa
Milk and Alternatives: yogurt, cheese, and skim/1%/2% milk
Meat and Alternatives: beans, lentils, and lean poultry
Skube cautions certain lunch items to be aware of. “Be mindful of the convenient ‘snacks’, which are often more like treats. For example, some granola bars have more sugar than a chocolate bar and may not be the healthiest choice. However, it is important to remember that even high-sugar treats are okay to have in moderation,” states Skube.
If thinking of new, creative lunch ideas is your downfall, try making simple changes to upgrade boring lunches. Skube suggests, “Thinking outside the ‘traditional’ lunch box. Try deconstructing a sandwich by putting the filling in a container, with veggies, cheese and crackers on the side. Another idea is to give the kids some responsibility and get them involved in making their lunches. From planning to packing, even young kids are able to contribute to the lunch-making process. Kids who help prepare their lunch are also more likely to eat it.”
To learn more about making this back-to-school season healthier, come to the September Healthy Get-Together,titled Upgrade the Brown Bag: Lunch Box Ideas that Kids (and Adults) will Enjoy. Skube will be speaking at the Health Sciences Centre on September 13th from 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm in Auditorium A about tips and ideas on more ways that you can upgrade your family’s lunches and meals. Everyone is welcome and parking passes are also available. RSVP by calling 684-7790 as space is limited.