By Sarah Blackwell
An estimated 30 per cent of children across Canada are obese or overweight, and Aboriginal children experience higher rates of obesity than others, which increases the risk of suffering from cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
Parents can get involved in parent council meetings or team sports to help advocate for improved snack and food options at schools, where children spend so much of their time.
The parent council of Our Lady of Fatima school in North Bay worked with Principal Susan Wardell myself to organize a Nutrition Night that was attended by some 50 students, parents, and teachers. Classrooms were assigned a topic related to nutrition and each class designed a project to be on display in the gymnasium.
Students had an opportunity to show what was in their lunch and learn some nutritional facts of life. Health stations were created on such topics as: quinoa the ancient grain, healthy snack ideas, sugar and caffeine awareness, and building your own “Lunchable”. Each student was given a “nutrition pass” to be stamped at each station where they learned about how to build their own salad, make a smoothie and sample quinoa cookies.
This is something that can be done in any community, including First Nations.
Ready-made lunches have fancy packaging, but are laden with salt/sodium, sugar, fats and additives that can affect your child’s attention span, blood sugar levels, mood, sleep and their concentration. It helps to have a bento-box style lunchbox or something with compartments, especially for younger children who appreciate their food being divided. Have your child help pack their own lunch.
Cheese – you can slice it, cube it or even make triangles.
Whole Grain Wrap – you can wrap anything in these. Try cream cheese with strawberries sliced inside.
Fresh Fruit – berries, apples sprinkled with cinnamon, grapes, melon. Have your child choose which fruit they would like to include in their lunch and encourage them to try something new every other week
Veggies and dip – carrots, celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas, tomatoes. Mix it up by cutting or slicing differently. Make your own dressing with plain full fat yogurt, dried dill and lemon juice with a drop of maple syrup.
Dessert – add a homemade cookie or muffin or search out the healthiest option by reading labels of grocery store brands.