How to pack a lunch your kids will eat

an apple and a veggie pita

Ask children why they didn’t eat their lunches and they’ll come up with a list of reasons. Here are some solutions that parents can use:

 “I hate it when my sandwich is soggy!”

Solutions:

  • Pack sandwich ingredients like bread, condiments, meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes separately. Let kids have some fun building their own sandwich at school. That way the bread won’t be mushy and the lettuce won’t wilt before lunch time.
  • If you want to make the sandwich at home, try freezing the bread ahead of time. It should thaw out by lunch time.
  • Use just a little mayonnaise to bind sandwich fillings like tuna, salmon or egg salad. Use other herbs and seasonings to add flavour.

 “My fruit always gets squashed.”

Solutions:

  • Get your child’s help in making a fresh fruit salad to pack in little lunch box containers.
  • Make little fruit kebobs by threading bite sized pieces of fresh fruit onto thin unsalted pretzel sticks or dull toothpicks. Try using pieces of soft fruits like kiwi, melons, pineapple and berries. Pack in a plastic container to avoid squashing.
  • Pack dried fruit such as raisins, apricots, apples or papaya bits.  

 “I can’t stand it when my drink is warm”

Solutions:

  • Use an insulated lunch bag with a frozen ice pack to keep foods cold.
  • Pack a frozen juice box and yogurt together by wrapping them with aluminium foil to keep them both cool for lunch.
  • Use an insulated drink container with some ice cubes in it to keep cold drinks cold.

 “I’m tired of the same old thing for lunch!”

Solutions:

  • Get your kids involved in choosing the foods they would like to eat for lunch using the four food groups in Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Take your child to the grocery store with you and pick out nutritious foods from each food group.
  • Mix it up with new vegetables, fruit, breads and fillings. Cut sandwiches into a new shape with a large cookie cutter for a change.

two little girls smiling at their bagged lunches

Foods for a healthier lunchbox

As of September 2011, all food and beverages sold in publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools must follow the Ontario government’s School Food and Beverage Policy. The policy includes a set of nutrition standards for providing healthier food and beverages at school. 


The chart below will help you choose food and beverages for a healthier lunchbox. The column entitled “What you should look for on the food label or preparation” is based on the School Food and Beverage Policy.

The chart below will help you choose food and beverages for a healthier lunchbox

 

Examples of some food and beverages that fit into this food category

What you should look for on the food label or preparation

Vegetables and fruit

apples, peaches, raisins, potatoes, spinach, dates, mango, pears, corn, peas, applesauce, low fat French fries, some dried fruit or 100% fruit leathers

  • Vegetables or fruit (or water) is the first item on the ingredient list AND
  • 0.15 g of trans fat or less AND
  • 3 g of fat or less AND
  • 2 g of saturated fat or less AND
  • 360 mg of sodium or less

Vegetable and fruit chips

Baked potato chips, banana chips

  • 0.15 g of trans fat or less AND
  • 3 g of fat or less AND
  • 2 g of saturated fat or less AND
  • 240 mg of sodium or less

Breads

Whole grain breads, bagels, English muffins, pita, naan, bannock, roti, tortillas, chapattis, whole grain pizza dough and flatbread

  • Trans fat is no more than 5% of total fat AND
  • Whole grain is the first item on the ingredient list AND
  • 2 g of saturated fat or less AND
  • 240 mg of sodium or less AND
  • 2 g or more of fibre

Baked goods

Muffins, cookies, grain based bars

  • 5 g of fat or less AND
  • 0.25 g of trans fat or less AND
  • 2 g of saturated fat or less AND
  • At least 2 g of fibre

Yogurt

Plain yogurt, fruit yogurt, yogurt tubes

  • 3.25 % MF (milk fat) or less OR 3 g of fat or less AND
  • 0.15 g of trans fat or less

Cheese

Part-skim mozzarella, cheddar, ricotta, feta, cream cheese, cottage cheese, cheese strings

  • 20% M.F or less AND
  • Trans fat is no more than 5% of total fat AND
  • 360 mg sodium or less AND
  • 15% Daily Value for calcium or more

Deli sandwich meat

Leaner deli meats such as ham, turkey, and chicken

  • 5 g of fat or less AND
  • 0.25 g of trans fat or less AND
  • 480 mg of sodium or less

Meat

Fresh or frozen lean ground meat, chicken, meatballs, hamburgers, chicken fingers and some wieners

  • 10 g of fat or less AND
  • 0.5 g of trans fat or less AND
  • 480 mg of sodium or less  

Milk

Plain milk, chocolate milk

  • Size of container must be 250 mL or less AND
  • 2% M.F or less OR less than 5 g of fat AND
  • 0.25 g of trans fat or less AND
  • 28 g of sugar or less AND
  • 25% DV or more of calcium

Juice

 

Fruit juice, vegetable juice, fruit drink/blend

  • Must be 100% juice, pulp or puree
  • Size of container must be 250 mL or less
  • Must be unsweetened or no sugar added

Additional Resources :