Aliments pour les lunchs

Optimizing lunches: when simplicity, health and safety come together!

21 January 2023

It can be difficult to prepare healthy lunches while being quick and efficient on busy mornings. This is why we offer you food ideas for healthy, nutritious and simple lunches. We also give you our tips for keeping your lunches fresh in your bag, for safe eating!

To help you build nutritious meals, you can think of the image of the plate from the new Canada Food Guide . This will give you a good guideline for preparing your meals. For children's lunches, you can divide the plate into three parts: half of the plate is reserved for vegetables, a quarter for grain products and another quarter for protein foods. The rest of the dinner can be accompanied with dairy products as well as fruit. When we choose foods containing a lot of fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.), we minimize the impact of the loss of energy that sometimes occurs after dinner.

Canada's Food Guide

Fruits and vegetables

Children and adolescents need 4 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A good tip for estimating portions would be to use your hand. The size of your fist is about one serving.

Fruit and vegetable ideas for lunches:

  • Ready-to-go or easy-to-cut raw vegetables (small carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery)
  • Vegetable juices
  • Fruit juices without added sugar
  • Fruit compotes without added sugar
  • Fresh fruit (strawberries, apples, peaches, grapes, etc.)
  • A fruit salad (can be made with frozen fruit)

Cereal products

Children and adolescents need on average between 3 and 7 servings of grain products per day. A slice of bread equals one serving and therefore a sandwich equals 2! Choose whole grain products whenever possible which offer more fiber, minerals, vitamins and flavor.

Cereal product ideas for lunches:

  • Varied breads for sandwiches: multigrain, pitas, tortillas, English muffins, etc.
  • Quinoa salads
  • Rice or couscous to accompany your protein
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Chewy bars (ideally with at least 2g of fiber and no more than 12g of sugar)
  • Homemade muffins (always better when homemade!!)
  • Oatcakes

Dairy products

It is recommended that children and adolescents have 2 to 4 servings of dairy products daily. These foods complement lunches beautifully and make nutritious snacks.

Dairy product ideas for lunches:

  • Yogurt (drink or container)
  • Single-serve soy drink
  • Individual portion cheese
  • Cheese spread on bread
  • Homemade milk or yogurt pudding (rice pudding, chia pudding, etc.)
  • Homemade dip made from Greek yogurt

Meats and substitutes

Meats and alternatives are a rich source of protein and are essential for children's growth! This food group helps you stay focused and full of energy all day long. Children and adolescents should therefore eat between 1 and 3 servings of meat and alternatives per day.

Ideas for meats and substitutes for lunches:

  • Sliced ​​ham, turkey or chicken
  • Chicken salad
  • Smoked salmon
  • Canned tuna
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Legume salad
  • Hummus (chickpea puree)

You can also cook your protein in larger quantities during dinner and transform it into another meal for lunch the next day. For example, your chicken can be transformed into a club sandwich or your roast pork into a salad!

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Safe lunches

The basic rule is simple: cold foods should stay cold and hot foods should stay hot! To keep your food cold, put your food in an insulated lunch box with an ice pack! For hot foods, if microwaves are not available at school, thermoses are very practical. Thermoses allow you to diversify lunches.

Plastic dishes placed in the microwave can potentially leak trace amounts of BPA and phthalates, especially when they contain fatty foods. You must therefore choose plastic dishes suitable for microwaves or choose other options such as glass dishes. It is also not recommended to use old plastic dishes such as yogurt or margarine dishes. Previously used and damaged containers may leak more substances when microwaved.

It is important to wash the lunch box regularly to prevent bacteria buildup. You can take a lunch box that goes in the washing machine. It's practical and effective!

At the end of the day, leftover lunches don't need to be automatically thrown away. Fruits and vegetables can be reused for soups and compotes, for example. Leftover cheese and yogurt can also be incorporated into recipes that will be baked. Cooking will destroy any bacteria. On the other hand, leftover meat, fish, legumes, eggs or dishes containing mayonnaise can be thrown away.

You are now ready to face the start of the school year with healthy, simple and tasty lunches!!

Sources used for writing this article:

Bourassa, M. (December 3, 2020). What is a child portion?. Mom for life. .

Government of Canada. (August 6, 2022). Canada's Food Guide. Government of Canada. .

Legault. J. (August 25, 2019). Back to school with simple, nutritious and safe lunches. LaPresse. .

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