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What are some healthy lunches for children?

This article is an excerpt of a publication by Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services.
Published in 2000.

Enjoy your meals with your kids. Try to remain calm when your child does not want to eat. Do not force your child to eat. It is best to offer your child a variety of foods at a specific time and place. Then, let your child decide how much they are going to eat. Never force your child to eat, because everybody gets upset and angry.

Give New Foods Slowly

It takes time for a child to like a new food. Here are some tips when giving your child a new food:

  • Give small amounts of the new food.
  • Give the new food with a food they already like.
  • Do not give a new food when your child is sick.
  • Be patient - it may take time before your child likes the new food.
  • Your child may like the food more if they helped make it.

Balance Your Meals

Try to include all 4 food groups from Canada's Food Guide at each meal.

Serve Child-Size Portions

Give your child small child size portions instead of adult portions. For example give your child ½ to 1 cup of milk, ½ bagel, ¼ cup of juice.

Offering Other Foods

Try to remember that your child may not like the same foods as the rest of the family. It is important to understand this and try to plan meals and snacks with your child. If your child does not like the food at dinner, then let your child help decide the menu for tomorrow's dinner.

Healthy and Affordable School Lunches

If your child's school does not have a lunch program, you need to send your child to school with lunch. Call your child's school to check the school's lunch facilities. Try to put variety into your child's lunch. Keep bread, crackers, bagels and sandwich fillings such as chopped egg on hand to make fast lunches.

Keeping your child's food safe is important. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold . Use clean containers to pack food in for lunch. To keep food hot, use a thermos. To keep food cold, use a frozen juice box, you put in the freezer the previous night. Your child will enjoy the slushy drink box at lunch.

Make sandwiches the night before and put them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh longer. Cream cheese, cheese and cold meat sandwiches can be made the night before and put in the freezer. Pack a frozen sandwich in your child's lunch bag and it will stay chilled longer. Eggs, vegetables and mayonnaise do not freeze well.

Leftovers make a great lunch for your child, especially if it is a food they love. Always make extras at dinner and then freeze in child-size portions for a quick lunch.

Have a copy of Canada's Food Guide in a handy spot so you and your child can check to see if you have included a serving from the grain products, vegetables and fruit, milk products and meat and alternatives food groups. As your child gets older, try to let them make their lunch using Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

Plan the week's lunches with your child. Then go shopping. Have your child help make lunch, especially if you think they are not eating it. Your child is more likely to eat lunch if they helped make it.

Not only are sandwiches easy to make, but they are also a great way to build in the 4 food groups. The lunch meal should have one food from each of the 4 food groups. Mix and match the foods from each food group to plan a balanced lunch:

Grain products

Vegetables & Fruit

Milk products

Meat and alternatives

Bread - whole wheat, rye, oatmeal

Seasonal fresh fruit

2%, 1%, skim milk

Hard boiled egg

Bagels

Canned fruit in own juices

Yogurt

Chick-peas

Rolls, buns

100% pure juice

Cheese (cut in cubes, slices, cheese spread or cheese strings)

Refried beans

English muffin

Vegetables sticks(with dip)

Cottage cheese

Leftover chicken leg

Leftover pasta - macaroni and cheese or spaghetti

Vegetable juice (for example tomato juice)

Milk based custard or pudding

Cold meatloaf

Muffins

Applesauce

Milk based soups

Cold cuts (for example ham, turkey breast, pastrami, roast beef, chicken) egg, tuna, salmon, peanut butter, beans, nuts and seeds

Pita bread

Salad

Soy milk (fortified calcium)

Vegetarian chili

Crackers
Rice
Rice noodles
Cornbread
Banana bread
Granola bars

 

Beef stew
Leftover pizza
Baked beans
Lentil soup
Sushi
Tofu

Lunch Ideas That Are Not Expensive

Lunch Ideas From the 4 Food Groups

  • Sliced meat, cheese and lettuce in a pita, carrot sticks, orange and milk
  • Leftover spaghetti with meat sauce, vegetables & dip, fresh fruit and milk
  • Crackers with cheese cubes & sliced cold cuts, cucumber slices, canned fruit in juice and milk

Other Sandwich Ideas

  • Tortillas: put meat, cheese, lettuce or other vegetables on a tortilla and roll it up
  • Pita bread: fill your pita with last night's leftovers
  • Banana dog: put peanut butter and banana on a hot dog bun
  • Chopped egg sandwich with raw vegetables and yogurt
  • Pita bread or whole wheat tortilla with tomato sauce, cheese, green pepper slices and pepperoni
  • Canned beans on toast with chocolate milk
  • Macaroni and cheese with fruit cup
  • Pita bread filled with chick-pea spread, lettuce, tomato and cheese
  • Whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter wrapped with a banana
  • Whole wheat bagel with apple sauce, cinnamon and raisins
  • Tuna mixed with ricotta cheese spread on crackers
  • Black bean dip with salsa wrapped in a tortilla
  • Leftover pizza
  • Chili or soup in a thermos

Please do not change your cultural food practices, especially if they differ from the suggestions made in this article. We honour your cultural food practices. We invite you to appreciate, celebrate and learn from this article.

This article is an excerpt from a guide to healthy eating for newcomers. Read the full guide, Bok Choy, Black Beans, Bananas... A Newcomer's Guide to Healthy Eating.

For More Information

  • Locally-Grown Cultural Food Guide - Information on where to shop for locally-grown foods in Toronto. From the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
  • Peer Nutrition Program - This is a free nutrition education program for parents and caregivers of children six months to six years of age living in Toronto. From Toronto Public Health.
  • Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide - Information about healthy diets. You can get it in more than 10 languages. From Health Canada.
Last Updated: June 27, 2013
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