Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: back to school lunches

It’s now the first week of school. Where did the summer go?!  If you are like me and a parent of school-aged kids, you are now struggling to get back into the school routine and this includes packed lunches. Sometimes we just need some suggestions and creativity to find lunch solutions that keep our children engaged.

Back to school blocks.

Your child is going to need something nutritious to eat to get them through the school day.

One of the best things that happened this last year was my children’s school instituted a play first lunch, where the kids play outside and then eat their lunch. This has resulted in my daughter eating more of her lunch as she isn’t in such a rush to get outside and play. If you’re interested in this concept you can find more information here.

However, no matter how the lunch time is structured, your child is going to need something nutritious to eat to get them through the rest of the school day. Looking for ideas? Try Lise’s Master Fruit Muffin Recipe, for some more lunch ideas check out HealthLink BC. Overall, remember that variety is key. Rarely would anyone want to eat the exact same food day after day; your child is unlikely to want the same lunch every day. Aim for at least three out of the four food groups and don’t forget the ice pack. Here are a few ideas:

  • Sandwich, wrap, roti or pita stuffed with meat, cheese, egg, tuna, peanut butter*, jam, vegetables and/or hummus.
  • Chili, stew, perogies, soup, samosas, pasta salad
  • Waffles, pancakes or muffins
  • Cereal and milk
  • Quiche, scrambled or hard-boiled eggs
  • Crackers or tortilla and cheese
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Kebabs (meat, cheese, vegetable)

*Note: due to allergies, some schools do not allow peanut butter.  Alternatives such as Wowbutter may be allowed.

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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Foodie Friday: Packing school lunches: Part 2

Apple, plums, cheese slices, muffin, leftover dinner, almonds, vegetables, and yogurt in containers.

Curious as to what a dietitian packs for her own lunch? Lise loves variety in her lunch but may not get through all of this during her workday. She’ll listen to her stomach and see what she needs!

Are you worried that your kid doesn’t eat enough at school? Does most of their lunch come back home at the end of the day? Is your kid so hungry after school that they are ready to have a meltdown? What to do??

In a recent blog post, we were inspired with some school lunch ideas. The Division of Responsibility in Feeding can help us here, too, by outlining parents’ jobs with feeding and kids’ jobs with eating.

Parents are responsible for deciding what foods are offered at meal and snack times, so it is up to you to decide what to include in the daily lunch bag.

As they get older, you can involve your kids in packing their own lunches by giving them some choices, such as: “For your fruit today, do you want an apple or a banana?” or “For your milk product, do you want yogurt or cheese slices?”

Your teen will eventually be able to take over the job of packing lunch, although you can still check in: “Did you pack food from 3 or 4 food groups?” and “Did you pack your water bottle?”

Once the lunch is packed and off to school, your job is done!

The Division of Responsibility in Feeding includes jobs for kids, too. It is up to your kid to decide in what order they will eat their food items or how much of each particular item they will eat. Your kid’s appetite can change from day to day; by listening to their body’s “hungry” and “full” messages, they know how much to eat.

As an aside, many schools have changed their lunch hour so that play time occurs before eating time. This is called “Play First Lunch” and school staff find that kids are more focused on eating their lunch, are better behaved and are more prepared to learn.

If there is no afternoon snack at school, your kid will benefit from a sit-down snack after school. Make this available every day, regardless of how much they have eaten for their lunch. As with packing lunch, you are responsible for deciding what to offer for this snack. As your kids get older, they can start to manage this snack with your guidance, such as “Choose foods from 2 food groups” and “Sit at the table for your snack.”

Curious as to what a dietitian packs for her own lunch? The photo above is one example: leftover spaghetti squash with meat and veggie sauce, an apple, 2 small plums, snap peas & carrots, blueberry yogurt, cheddar cheese slices, a homemade fruit muffin and almonds. I love a lot of variety in my lunch, although I may not get through all of this during my workday – I’ll listen to my tummy and see what I need!

The recipe below is my “master fruit muffin recipe,” but I often modify the ingredients. I might swap the ratio of banana to apples, or use a plum or pear sauce instead of applesauce. In terms of flour, sometimes I use only whole wheat flour or only white flour, while at other times I throw in some oats or bran. Sometimes I add cinnamon, ginger or other spices. It all depends on what I have available in my kitchen at the time and what I am in the mood for.

Lise’s Master Fruit Muffin Recipe

Makes 12 muffins

Dry ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

Wet ingredients

  • 1½ cup overripe banana
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare muffin tins.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in one bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients together in another bowl.
  4. Mix wet and dry ingredients together until just moist, quickly spoon into muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes.

These fruit muffins are quite moist, and so are best eaten within a day or two. Alternatively, double the batch and freeze the muffins for future lunches and snacks.

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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