Lunch boxes look fun on the outside but what goes inside can cause considerable stress for parents.

Back to school means the return of the dreaded ‘lunch box’

A few tips to meet the challenge of getting something nutritious children's lunch boxes that they'll eat

About 50,000 people attended the Saanich Fair on Labour Day weekend.  It was literally a zoo. So much to taste and experience, with everything from the Coastal Cowgirls performing their synchronized galloping horseback show, to the largest rabbit I have ever seen.

It’s the place to ask questions about backyard chickens or figure out what kind of apple is growing on your fruit tree? It’s also the place where you can find an old timer, or young timer (4H kids) who can be able to point you in the right direction. CRFAIR ran the zucchini races again this year, with over 1,000 kids participating!

As we watched the zuch’s zoom down the track, I talked to a lot of the parents. Not surprisingly, there was one theme that kept coming up.

While parents were really excited to have kids heading back to school, they dreaded the daily job of packing the school lunch box. How to meet the challenge of getting something nutritious in there that the kids would eat, that didn’t generate too much waste?

My friend Janelle Hatch, a registered dietician, gave me some great lunch box tips that might ease some of the back to school stress.  “In a nutshell,”  she advises “get the kids involved, keep it simple, make it interesting, and try to keep waste to a minimum.

“I always say get your kids involved not only in packing the lunches to lighten your load, but include your kids in thinking up ideas and in choosing some of the foods.  You can take them to the farmers market, out to the backyard garden or to the grocery store. Make it a team effort.  Then they are not left wondering what is going to show up in their lunch, and they are much more likely to eat it,” Hatch said.

“Home baking or a piece of fruit, such as an apple in the fall, you can’t go wrong with that.  Keep it to the basics; try to pack a balance along the four food groups. Avoid prepackaged stuff as it generates a lot of garbage and schools are encouraging the Litter-less Lunch. If they are drawn to this stuff in the grocery store, avoid the center isles and give them choices like picking their favourite yogurt or fruit,” she recommends.

Hatch also believes that keeping it simple is important; having a diversity of small portions of different items is usually a hit. Often they don’t have much time to eat, or know what they will feel like in the moment.

You can make it interesting by cutting snacks into different shapes, and making lunch colorful with different reusable containers. Emphasize keeping it safe by adding cold packs to lunch boxes.

This also reduces waste because items like cheese that comes home can still be used for an after school snack or grated onto your pizza for dinner.

Lastly, Hatch says don’t get too stressed about it. Research tells us even if kids aren’t eating at school that having a good breakfast and afterschool snack will balance things out. For more ideas, she points to the Eat Right Ontario website to the tab on School Health, and an article called Healthy Lunch Ideas for the New School Year. See eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/School-Health/Articles/Healthy-lunch-ideas-for-the-new-school-year.aspx.

Good luck.

– Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable.

 

 

 

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