For years, most of us have been aware of the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest incidence of many cancers, heart disease, diabetes and other health related issues. There is also no surprise that we also consume the lowest amounts of fruits and vegetables in the country. You may have seen this article released this week on CBC News (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/canadian-children-school-lunches-1.4260099). The information sited in this article is dated; however we still face many of the same challenges that led to these results. While we know that access to affordable healthy foods is an issue in our Province, we need to make an effort to incorporate healthy foods into our diets each day. There are ways around the high cost of food; be creative, make a meal plan and take the time to pack healthy foods for your child to enjoy at school.
Here are some ideas on how to pack a healthy snacks and lunches for your child, while keeping it budget friendly:
Kids Eat Smart has you covered! We have KES Breakfast Clubs in 90% of our schools so a healthy breakfast is available to most children on school days. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and our KES Clubs offer at least 3 out of the 4 food groups to children and youth including:
- A healthy whole grain
- Dairy (milk if possible to serve daily, if not offer hard cheese or yogurt)
- Fruit or Vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned as long as there are no added sugars)
KES suggests you offer at least 2 out of 4 food groups
- Buy items such as whole grain crackers and dry cereals in bulk. Portion them up in resalable baggies and this can be a grain choice for your child’s recess.
- Frozen fruits or buy fruits when in season and freeze them. Separate in portions to suit your child. When they thaw and your child takes it out for their recess it will be perfect temperature, juicy and sweet!
- Cheese – portion hard cheese in cubes instead of buying cheese strings. Much more budget friendly. When on sale, stock up and freeze your cheese and cut portions as needed.
- Homemade trail mix are a great snack as well. Some dry cereal, dry fruit (ie. raisins, crasins, etc), granola bits and to sweeten you can use coconut if you wish.
- Yogurt – buy a large tub and use reusable jars from home instead of individual portion cups.
KES suggests 4 out of 4 food groups should be offered if possible and could include the following options:
- Leftovers will always be your best option. With leftover protein from the previous night supper, your options are endless. For example, a leftover baked chicken or beef roast.
- Chicken and cheese quesadillas (add peppers , kids love the colour)
- Left over whole wheat chicken or roast beef sandwich
- Chicken wrap with veggies and cheese
- Soups, pastas and casseroles are very affordable meals and can be made in bulk and frozen. These can be a lunch option 1 -2 times a week. An insulated thermos is a great idea to keep these foods warm until lunchtime. This eliminates the need to use the microwave.
- Your grains and proteins should be paired with a dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) For example, whole grain crackers and hard cheese.
- Your fruits and vegetables can be your sides. Any fruit or vegetable that’s on sale that week will be perfect. If nothing on sale, frozen, fresh or canned are just as nutritious!
Remember, these are simply just some options, there are so many choices out there that you can give your children for their snacks and lunches. The main thing to remember when trying to prepare food for the school year is to keep it simple…. plan ahead and prep in advance. When we don’t plan we have a tendency to throw in more of those “less healthy” options. At the end of the day we know that avoiding processed pre-packaged foods will save you money and allow you to create healthier food choices for your children throughout their school day!
Please share Kids Eat Smart Nutrition Blogs on Tuesdays and Thursdays for healthy recipes, tips and ideas for feeding your kids at home and at school!
Janel Genge is a Registered Dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador