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Back to school: Make lunchtime fun time, says expert

Kids can often be much pickier eaters than their parents, particularly when it comes to healthy options.

But there are ways to pack a healthy lunch and get kids excited about eating well – even if they don’t realize they’re doing it, says Sarah Voldeng, a registered nutritionist and founder of Absolutely Nutrition in Victoria.

“Eating creative is really important: when packing fruit and vegetables, make it fun for kids by cutting food out into different shapes, or making it a bit more decorative,” Voldeng says.

Including yogurt or salad dips is one simple way to make vegetable and fruit healthy and exciting at the same time, she says.

A second tip? Parents tend to skimp on protein when packing school lunches, often forgetting that plenty of protein helps stabilize blood sugar.

“Protein is good for focus and stamina during the long school day, whether it’s meat, cheese, yogurt or other vegetarian options, that’s a substantial part of a healthy meal for kids,” Voldeng says.

A lot of parents tend to go “carb-heavy” with packed lunches and snacks (think crackers and chips) while forgetting about the importance of protein, says the nutritionist.

Last, don’t forget about healthy fats. Avocado, salmon, tuna, or fatty seeds like pumpkin and sunflower do the trick while satisfying that snacking itch.

“Stay away from foods that will cause fluctuation in behaviour, and foods definitely do that,” Voldeng says. “Putting in something that’s too high in refined sugars will speed kids up and cause them to crash too quickly. But healthy fats supply the brain with what it needs for healthy functioning.”

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