Figuring out how much your kid should eat can be a difficult task as diets and appetites can differ drastically with gender and age. But as a general rule of thumb, a balanced and healthy diet should include all of the four food groups: grains, vegetables and fruits, dairy and alternatives, and meat and alternatives. Grains are great sources of fibre and act as energy fuels. Fruits and vegetables also have tremendous fibre, as well as vitamins and minerals. Dairy and alternatives are excellent sources of calcium, while meat and alternatives are usually the main sources of protein.
Children’s Food Guide according to Health Canada
A collection of sample data from Canada’s Food Guide, provided by Health Canada, on menu options for girls and boys of varying age ranges show the considerable differences in recommended diets.
For example, the daily recommendations for a seven-year-old boy include five servings of vegetables and fruits, four servings of grains, two servings of dairy and alternatives, and one serving of meat and alternatives. On the other hand, a ten-year-old boy’s recommended servings are six vegetables and fruits, six grains, four dairy and alternatives, and two meat and alternatives. And of course, the difference between a three-year-old girl and a twelve-year-old girl is even more substantial.
While these guidelines can seem confusing, there are several things you can do to help them pack a healthy kids lunch, no matter how old they are.
Easy and Sure-Fire Ways to Pack a Healthy Kids Lunch
1. Sneak in the healthy foods.
It’s clear that fruits and vegetables are super important to incorporate into your kid’s lunch, as fresh juice or in a sandwich. But you can also incorporate more fresh produce by packing some berries and celery sticks as snacks for them. Many popular dips and spreads don’t exactly cater to our health. Instead of dipping celery sticks in less healthy dips like ranch, try healthier options like peanut butter or even Greek yoghurt–who doesn’t love a good healthy tzatziki?
2. Not all high-fat foods are bad.
Health Canada advises adults to not restrict children from consuming nutritious foods with a high fat content. It can be strategic to offer kid-friendly options from the four food groups, such as cheese, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, or almond butter, and incorporate them into their salad or sandwich. Nothing wrong with a healthy kids lunch with a little healthy fat content!
3. Skip the sports drinks and pops.
There are a lot of reasons why neither children nor adults need to be drinking sports drinks, and a lot more why no one should be drinking pop, but one very simple reason is that children should be encouraged to hydrate and quench their thirst with water. Make water fun by letting them choose what fruits they want to infuse their water with! Watermelons, strawberries, citrus, and cucumbers are all great options. If it’s a fruit that they choose and enjoy, they’ll likely eat the fruits after the water is all gone.
4. Let them make the decisions!
Okay, maybe not all the decisions. But involving your kids in deciding on what goes into their lunch can be a great way for them to enjoy food. There are plenty of healthy, kid-friendly recipes that you and your kids can make together. And besides, who wouldn’t want their kids to have the bragging rights of having picked and made their own lunch?
5. Be a role model for your kids.
Children are likely to take after their parents in lifestyle and eating habits. If they see you chomping down celery and carrot sticks, they’ll be more inclined to try and enjoy them. And if they’re really not digging the rabbit foods, have patience! Children’s palates change all the time. Continue offering the same foods, and they may just start enjoying them as they get a bit older!
Hopefully these quick and easy tips might benefit both you and your kids, but ultimately, you know your kid best. Every kid has different preferences and diets and needs. Try different healthy foods and see what works best for them, and make sure to check if the school has any food allergy restrictions. If you have any great tips on packing a healthy kids lunch, we’d love to hear them!