What are some healthy lunches for children?

Enjoy your meals with your kids. Try to remain calm when your child does not want to eat.

Do not force your child to eat. It is best to offer your child a variety of foods at a specific time and place. Then, let your child decide how much they are going to eat. Never force your child to eat, because everybody gets upset and angry.

Give New Foods Slowly

It takes time for a child to like a new food. Here are some tips when giving your child a new food:

  • Give small amounts of the new food.
  • Give the new food with a food they already like.
  • Do not give a new food when your child is sick.
  • Be patient - it may take time before your child likes the new food.
  • Your child may like the food more if they helped make it.

Balance Your Meals

Try to include all 4 food groups from Canada's Food Guide at each meal.

Serve Child-Size Portions

Give your child small child size portions instead of adult portions. For example give your child ½ to 1 cup of milk, ½ bagel, ¼ cup of juice.

Offering Other Foods

Try to remember that your child may not like the same foods as the rest of the family. It is important to understand this and try to plan meals and snacks with your child. If your child does not like the food at dinner, then let your child help decide the menu for tomorrow's dinner.

Healthy and Affordable School Lunches

If your child's school does not have a lunch program, you need to send your child to school with lunch. Call your child's school to check the school's lunch facilities. Try to put variety into your child's lunch. Keep bread, crackers, bagels and sandwich fillings such as chopped egg on hand to make fast lunches.

Food Safety

Keeping your child's food safe is important. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Use clean containers to pack food in for lunch. To keep food hot, use a thermos. To keep food cold, use a frozen juice box, you put in the freezer the previous night. Your child will enjoy the slushy drink box at lunch.

Make sandwiches the night before and put them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh longer. Cream cheese, cheese and cold meat sandwiches can be made the night before and put in the freezer. Pack a frozen sandwich in your child's lunch bag and it will stay chilled longer. Eggs, vegetables and mayonnaise do not freeze well.

Leftovers make a great lunch for your child, especially if it is a food they love. Always make extras at dinner and then freeze in child-size portions for a quick lunch.

Canada's Food Guide

Have a copy of Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating in a handy spot so you and your child can check to see if you have included a serving from the grain products, vegetables and fruit, milk products and meat and alternatives food groups. As your child gets older, try to let them make their lunch using Canada's Food Guide.

Plan Ahead

Plan the week's lunches with your child. Then go shopping. Have your child help make lunch, especially if you think they are not eating it. Your child is more likely to eat lunch if they helped make it.

Not only are sandwiches easy to make, but they are also a great way to build in the 4 food groups. The lunch meal should have one food from each of the 4 food groups. Mix and match the foods from each food group to plan a balanced lunch:

1. Grain Products

  • Bread - whole wheat, rye, oatmeal
  • Bagels
  • Rolls, buns
  • English muffin
  • Leftover pasta - macaroni and cheese or spaghetti
  • Muffins
  • Pita bread
  • Crackers
  • Rice
  • Rice noodles
  • Cornbread
  • Banana bread
  • Granola bars

2. Vegetables and Fruit

  • Seasonal fresh fruit
  • Salad
  • Canned fruit in own juices
  • 100% pure juice
  • Vegetables sticks(with dip)
  • Vegetable juice (for example tomato juice)
  • Applesauce

3. Milk and Alternatives

  • 2%, 1%, skim milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese (cut in cubes, slices, cheese spread or cheese strings)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Milk based custard or pudding
  • Milk based soups
  • Soy or a nut-based milk (fortified calcium)

4. Meat and alternatives

  • Hard boiled egg
  • Chick-peas
  • Refried beans
  • Leftover chicken leg
  • Cold meatloaf
  • Cold cuts (for example ham, turkey breast, pastrami, roast beef, chicken) egg, tuna and salmon
  • Peanut butter, beans, nuts and seeds
  • Vegetarian chili
  • Beef stew
  • Leftover pizza
  • Baked beans
  • Lentil soup
  • Sushi
  • Tofu

Lunch Ideas That Are Not Expensive

Lunch Ideas From the 4 Food Groups

  • Sliced meat, cheese and lettuce in a pita, carrot sticks, orange and milk
  • Leftover spaghetti with meat sauce, vegetables & dip, fresh fruit and milk
  • Crackers with cheese cubes & sliced cold cuts, cucumber slices, canned fruit in juice and milk

Other Sandwich Ideas

  • Tortillas: put meat, cheese, lettuce or other vegetables on a tortilla and roll it up
  • Pita bread: fill your pita with last night's leftovers
  • Banana dog: put peanut butter and banana on a hot dog bun
  • Chopped egg sandwich with raw vegetables and yogurt
  • Pita bread or whole wheat tortilla with tomato sauce, cheese, green pepper slices and pepperoni
  • Canned beans on toast with chocolate milk
  • Macaroni and cheese with fruit cup
  • Pita bread filled with chick-pea spread, lettuce, tomato and cheese
  • Whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter wrapped with a banana
  • Whole wheat bagel with apple sauce, cinnamon and raisins
  • Tuna mixed with ricotta cheese spread on crackers
  • Black bean dip with salsa wrapped in a tortilla
  • Leftover pizza
  • Chili or soup in a thermos

Please do not change your cultural food practices, especially if they differ from the suggestions made in this article. We honour your cultural food practices. We invite you to appreciate, celebrate and learn from this article.

For More Information

  • Locally-Grown Cultural Food Guide - Information on where to shop for locally-grown foods in Toronto. From the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
  • Peer Nutrition Program - This is a free nutrition education program for parents and caregivers of children six months to six years of age living in Toronto. From Toronto Public Health.
  • Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide - Information about healthy diets. You can get it in more than 10 languages. From Health Canada.
Last updated: August 17, 2017 4001290