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HEALTHY LUNCHES TO GO

- Make the Grade This School Year By Packing a Healthy School Lunch With Meal Appeal -

Pack a healthier punch into that school lunch this fall to help students stay at the head of their class.

Research shows that students who eat regularly are more attentive and perform better in school. That makes it important for families to plan ahead and prepare lunches that are healthy and appealing to even the pickiest eater, says Sarah Tsang, a Registered Dietitian with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

“Lunch is so important for the body and brain,” she notes. “With a bit of pre-planning and a variety of foods, you can take heart in knowing you are making healthy lunches that make the nutritional grade.”

According to Tsang, lunches and snacks should include a variety of foods from Eating Well With Canada’s Food Guide. The Food Guide offers age-specific recommendations on the number of items from each food group that boys and girls should eat each day. She recommends incorporating all four food groups into a school lunch, and including at least two food groups for a snack to ensure children have enough energy and key nutrients for healthy growth and development and to help them concentrate in class. The EatRight Ontario website can also be a good resource for families, she adds.

“Another important ingredient to a healthy lunch is to give yourself enough time to make it,” Tsang says. “While many people say preparing and eating healthy meals is a priority, a lack of time makes it difficult to eat healthy on a regular basis.”

To save time, Aisha Malik encourages parents to plan student lunches for the week ahead, and then make them the night before school. “Stocking up on fruits and vegetables, milk, yogurt, cheese, 100 per cent fruit juice, and whole grain breads and crackers can provide a variety of easy-to-choose options by which to make a healthy lunch,” says Malik, who is also a Registered Dietitian with the HKPR District Health Unit.

Getting children involved in preparing lunches can also make it more likely that the food will be eaten at school. Malik suggests planning the school lunch menu together as a family, and encouraging children to write food ideas for lunch on a calendar. Letting a child pick a favourite fruit, yogurt or other healthy food choice at the grocery store to include in a school lunch can also increase the likelihood that food brought to school is eaten, she adds.

Some examples of healthy school lunches that do not have to be boring include “pita pizzas” that are whole-grain pitas or wraps filled with shredded lettuce and carrots, salsa and cheese. Tuna or egg salad bagels, that feature tuna or egg mixed with mayonnaise, onion and seasonings on a whole grain bagel and topped with vegetables, are another healthy lunch idea to consider. “Remember to balance each of these healthy lunch ideas by adding milk and fruit,” Malik says.

Preparing lunch can pose extra challenges if children follow a balanced school day schedule that splits lunch into morning and afternoon ‘nutrition breaks.’ Parents can still choose a variety of healthy foods from Canada’s Food Guide, but should split lunch in half, packing foods for each break. For more on preparing safe, healthy school lunches, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 or visit www.hkpr.on.ca.

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For media inquiries, contact:

In Northumberland County: Sarah Tsang, Registered Dietitian, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100, ext. 1497.

In City of Kawartha Lakes/Haliburton County: Aisha Malik, Registered Dietitian, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569, ext. 2300.

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