Excerpted from Good Food to Go by Brenda Bradshaw and Cheryl Mutch. Copyright © 2011 by Brenda Bradshaw and Cheryl Mutch. Excerpted by permission of Random House Canada, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
No matter how beautifully packaged and healthy your child's lunch may be, if it comes home uneaten or, worse yet, winds up in the garbage, all your hard work is wasted. Research tells us that children who are involved in preparing their food are more likely to eat it. Therefore, it's important to get your kids involved from the outset. After all, we know kids won't eat what they don't like, especially if you are not there.
Kids of all ages can take part in preparing and choosing the foods that go into their lunches. Young children can wash vegetables and fruit, help with baking and mix sandwich spreads. With guidance, older children can make sandwiches and cut fruits and vegetables, while high school students can independently pack their own lunches. However, it is important to understand that things don't always go as smoothly as planned. If you are unhappy with the type of lunches that your teen packs, consider getting him to clean up the kitchen after dinner while you start the lunch. Preparing food for someone else is an act of generosity and nurturing. Spend a few extra minutes together packing leftovers and choosing which fruits and snacks to include.
Co-operative meal planning is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children about the importance of healthy eating. Turn to the copy of Canada's Food Guide starting on page 11. Remind your kids of the 4 food groups and explain how each group provides our bodies with a different set of key nutrients. For example, Vegetables and Fruit help us stay healthy by providing us with important vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.
Meat and Alternatives provide us with energy, iron and protein. Energy gives us the power needed to accomplish our daily tasks: working, playing, growing and learning. Protein helps us stay alert and provides our bodies with the tools needed to build and repair body tissue. When Brenda's son, Charlie, was young, he was reluctant to eat chicken sandwiches until she explained that chicken is packed full of protein, the nutrient needed to build strong muscles. To this day, Charlie's favourite lunch is the Chicken Souvlaki Wrap (page 74).
Milk and Alternatives supply us with protein, vitamin D and calcium. Calcium and vitamin D are the nutrients needed to build healthy bones and strong teeth. Building a skeleton without vitamin D and calcium is like building a sandcastle without sand. Finally, Grain Products provide us with carbohydrates and fibre. Carbohydrates give us energy and supply our brain with the fuel it needs to think and learn. Fibre keeps our bowels working regularly and its intake is associated with reduced risk of various diseases including heart disease, diabetes and obesity.