by Danielle Labonte, MPH, MAN, RD
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
Children spend much of their waking time at school, so the meals and snacks they eat there are a major source of the energy and nutrients they need to grow, learn, and play. Most schools have a meal or snack program that is available for all students; talk to your child’s teacher or principal to learn more about what your school offers.
When packing a school lunch, try to pack one food from each of the food categories on the new Canada’s Food Guide: vegetables and fruit, whole grains and protein foods. A whole grain pita stuffed with cooked chicken breast and veggies of your choice includes an option from each food category.
For drinks, white milk, unsweetened fortified soy beverage, and plain water are the best choices. Juices, flavoured milks and fortified soy beverages (e.g., chocolate), energy drinks, and sports drinks are high in sugar that kids do not need. Even 100% fruit juice or “no sugar added” fruit juices have quite a bit of natural sugar. Energy drinks should not be offered as they are high in caffeine and other ingredients that are not safe for children. For younger kids, pack foods that are already cut and easy to handle, and in packages and/or containers that they are able to open themselves.
For more ideas on packing a school lunch, check out our “What’s For Lunch?” resources by typing in the search bar at healthunit.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook and follow us on X @LGLHealthUnit for important public health updates.