Lunchboxes: The ABCs of a healthy lunch
Lunchbox season is back, causing anxiety in parents everywhere! Lack of time, lack of inspiration, and a whole lot of guilt about what goes into them . . . sound familiar?
In order to make packing your children’s lunch a breeze, you simply have to keep in mind that it’s variety, rather than complexity, that counts. In the end, it’s what we eat on a regular basis that matters most for our health. All foods, healthy and slightly less so, have their place in your kids’ lunchbox; when it comes to a healthy lunch, balance is key.
- Save time: get into the habit of making larger portions for supper, that way you’ll have leftovers for your lunches the next day.
- Plan ahead: plan your meals for the upcoming week based on what’s on special at your favourite grocery store.
- Keep it simple: add a few ready-to-eat meals to your cart, making sure to carefully read the nutritional labels and lists of ingredients (the shorter the list, the better!). Opt for dishes that contain less fat, sugar, and salt, and more vitamins and fresh ingredients. Avoid processed foods.
What does a healthy meal look like?
A healthy, filling, and nutritious meal contains:
- a source of protein (meat, poultry, fish, legumes, tofu, eggs, or other);
- vegetables (at least a third of your plate);
- grains, preferably whole grains, or carbohydrates (example: whole-wheat bread, brown rice, potatoes, or sweet potatoes).
With these 3 elements, you can whip up a healthy, balanced meal in no time! You can:
- Make a wholesome salad using whatever rice or pasta you have left over. Simply add in some protein (canned tuna, leftover chicken, cubes of tofu, etc.) and a few colourful veggies. Pressed for time? You can transform a store-bought salad (think pasta, quinoa, or couscous salad) by adding canned legumes, cheese, and vegetables. A protein-packed meal everyone will love!
- Reinvent the classic sandwich! Switch up the type of bread and condiments you use to avoid falling into the same routine. Avoid deli meats, especially those that are high in fat and salt, as they’re not all that healthy. Instead, cook up a batch of fondue meat and freeze a few portions so that you always have some on-hand. You can also prepare some hard-boiled eggs or chicken breasts on Sunday evening, for a variety of quick and easy lunch options all week long!
- Prepare a decomposed lunch, meaning a variety of individual ingredients (for example: crudités, whole-grain crackers, cheese cubes, and a few small shrimp for added protein). A reusable container with separate compartments is great for this kind of lunch, and the kids will love it!
- Buy a ready-made platter of crudités or make your own at the start of the week, that way you’ll always have fresh veggies on-hand. With or without dip, crudités make every meal healthy and fun!
Healthy snacks and desserts
There are so many healthy snacks that are just perfect for lunchboxes:
- Crudités or crackers with hummus
- Roasted legumes
Need inspiration? Discover some perfect lunchbox snacks!
You can’t go wrong with homemade desserts and snacks, especially ones that are easy to make and freeze well. Here are a few examples:
Get the kids involved! They’ll be happy to say they helped, and it’ll mean you get to spend some quality time as a family. Everyone will feel motivated to roll up their sleeves and get to work . . . it’s a win-win situation!
If you prefer, you can also opt for ready-made snacks and desserts. Just make sure to choose products with short ingredient lists and that contain less sugar, as well as little or no trans and saturated fat (be on the lookout for lard, butter, palm oil, and hydrogenated oils). Your best bet is to purchase products made with whole grains, not just white flour.
Eco and budget-friendly: reduce your use of plastic and packaging by
reusable containers, rather than resealable bags and plastic wrap. You’ll be doing your wallet—and the planet—good!
Beverages: opt for flavoured water
- The healthiest beverage out there, water can turn flavourful with the addition of just a few simple ingredients. Here a few great combo ideas:
- Cucumber and mint
- Strawberry and basil
- Melon and mint
- Apple and cinnamon
Although lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit are often used to infuse water, don’t overdo it: citrus fruit can have a negative impact on oral
Don’t feel like water?
- Rounding out a light meal with milk or a soy-based alternative is a smart choice. They contain protein, calcium, and vitamin D, making them a wholesome addition to any meal.
- Try to limit your family’s consumption of sugary juices, serving them in small quantities and only once in a while. Instead, bite into a juicy fruit!
Discover other tips and tricks for a stress-free back-to-school season