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Back-to-school lunch book packed with sensible, handy tips from Vancouver moms

Ditching paper bags, juice boxes, plastic cutlery, paper napkins and other non-recyclable items from school lunch boxes is becoming the next trend for parents to digest as another school year approaches.

These environmental suggestions appear in a new cookbook, “Good Food To Go: Healthy Lunches Your Kids Will Love,” by Brenda Bradshaw and Dr. Cheryl Mutch (Random House Canada, $23.95, paperback).

“A child packing an old-fashioned brown bag lunch with a juice box or tin can can make an estimated 67 pounds (30 kilograms) of waste over a year,” says Bradshaw, an elementary school teacher who collaborated on the book with Mutch, a consultant pediatrician. Both live in Vancouver and have two children each.

“What we are trying to do is encourage parents and their children to create litterless lunches,” says Bradshaw. “It is a good way to teach your children about environmental stewardship and how their choices can impact the environment.”

Instead of buying plastic containers, the authors suggest choosing those that are bisphenol A (BPA) free. Lids should be leak-proof but accessible so children can open them with ease.

Purchase a wide-mouth, stainless-steel bottle and Thermos, cloth napkins and metal cutlery, they say.

The book also addresses such issues as choosing and packing healthy nutritious lunches that will be eaten.

“First of all we know children are more likely to eat lunches that they have helped to prepare,” says Bradshaw. “Talk to them about what foods they like to try and incorporate their preferences in the lunch box."

Bradshaw says that parents should not harp at their children about uneaten food.

“We know children who are pressured or forced to eat have a tendency to eat less,” she adds. “If they know they are going to get into trouble when they get home, they are going to dump their lunches so you, the parent, won't be the wiser.”

She says that a lot of children have less than 10 minutes to eat their lunch and are in a hurry to get to the playground.

“Also there is a lot going on in the lunchroom and they are distracted so eating is not their priority.”

On the issue of trading certain items in their lunchbox with friends, Bradshaw says her daughter’s school prohibits it.

“That is because of the danger of allergies where one child could accidentally eat something they shouldn't."

The authors point out that since children consume approximately one-third of their daily calories at school, what goes into their lunch boxes is vital to their well-being.

So the book guides parents on how to create wholesome, homemade lunches that can be made the night before, while others may be may be prepared in bulk and frozen to help with last-minute preparation.

“Good Food To Go” has 180 recipes for sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads, dips and desserts.

Also important is the inclusion of snacks for recess and after-school consumption.

“They can come home starving especially if they haven't eaten much or any lunch,” says Bradshaw. “And for children attending after-school programs, pack extra snacks.”

Judy Creighton is a reporter for The Canadian Press.

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