The back to school season is quickly approaching and whether you have kids or not, fall is always a busy time of year. Since there are still a few weeks left of summer, there is no better time than now to brainstorm and get ahead of the routine change. With a little planning and preparation, back to school lunches don’t have to be difficult. In fact, one of the best ways to simplify prepping your kids’ school lunches is to get them involved in the process!
According to the new Canada’s Food Guide, there are many health benefits to getting kids involved in the meal preparation and cooking process. Some of these long-term benefits include: increased confidence and self-esteem, improved reading and math skills through reading recipes and measuring of ingredients, and development of a greater understanding of what foods are good for overall health. Moreover, children who are more involved in the creation of their meals are more likely to eat their meals and enjoy their foods.
Here are some tips to help you get your kids involved:
1. Plan out your meals and snacks with your kids. Get your kids involved in the process by sitting down with them to have them help decide which favourite recipes and snacks to make for the week before you head to the grocery store. That way, you not only save time and money, but you can stock up on foods from all food groups- vegetables, fruit, whole grains products and proteins- which will provide a basis of nutritious lunches and snacks for both you and your kids. Leftovers of any kind will also make for a perfect next-day lunch, so you can always prepare a little extra the night before and avoid the stress the next morning.
2. Prep/ Simplify your Ingredients. Aim to prepare or cook your meals on Sundays (for Monday-Wednesday meals) and Wednesdays (for Thursday- Sunday meals). If you don’t have time to cook, consider pre-chopping vegetables and fruits or preparing your meats with seasoning ahead of time and placing them in the freezer for later use. This will help reduce prep time time during the week and save you time packing lunches. Remember: extra hands speed up the process, so make sure to get the kids involved and assign tasks to your children every evening to help ensure they help with preparing their lunches (ie. putting pre-cut veggies into a container).
3. Think beyond the Sandwich. Shake up your typical sandwich and try a bento box instead! Bento box lunch kits are such a great way for the kids to have fun and get creative with mixing up their food options. Having the different sections in the lunch kits will also help to ensure that you include food from all food groups- vegetables, fruits, whole grains and proteins- to provide your child with a variety of nutrient-dense foods with essential vitamins and minerals needed for energy, growth and development. Consider trying a themed Bento Box like an Asian noodles inspired box filled with rice noodles and seaweed to start.
If you would like to learn more on how to prepare nutritious lunches and snacks to create a healthy routine and raise a food lover, Whitney, your in-store dietitian, can help to provide great recipe ideas and offer tips on how to get your kids more involved in the planning through store one-on-one consultations, store tours, workshops. She also offers to help you set SMART objectives to support with achieving your nutritious eating goals. To book an appointment, stop by in-store or go to www.bookadietitian.ca to find a dietitian near to you.