A new, sustainable model to improve Canadian school children’s diet

Faculty of Health Sciences
Nutrition Sciences

By the School of Nutrition Sciences

Marie Dominique Antoine - Communication, Faculty of Health Sciences

woman sin a conference room smiling and holding an apple
Canadian children don’t eat enough vegetables, whole fruit, and whole grains on school days. That’s why Professor Claire Tugault-Lafleur of the School of Nutrition Sciences is working to support healthful home-packed lunches.

Tugault-Lafleur’s doctoral research suggested that foods children consume at school leave room for improvement. Armed with a passion for healthy eating and experience as a parent, she started working to improve Canadian children’s school eating practices along with a colleague from the school.

Tugault-Lafleur and her colleague Jess Haines aim to develop and test the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary impact of a family-based intervention designed to improve the nutritional quality of foods in children’s lunch boxes.  

The intervention will include a Better Lunch Box cookbook that provides parents with tips for preparing healthy lunches and 15 easy-to-prepare lunch recipes, an online family education and cooking session, behavioural supports (e.g., a bento-style lunch box) to support healthy lunch packing strategies and text messages to reinforce healthy lunch packing behaviours.

Canada food guide image with a plate
Canadian food guide snapshot

The team will pilot test the intervention using a pre/post design with a socioeconomically diverse sample of 20 Ontario families with children in junior kindergarten to Grade 3. The results will inform a subsequent Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) submission for a full-scale randomized controlled trial of the Better Lunch Box intervention to provide a new, sustainable model for improving diet quality among Canadian school children. 

In the meantime, Tugault-Lafleur suggests an inclusive nutrition approach. It’s important to eat with children and help them discover new foods. In general, a lunchbox must contain at least one vegetable and one fruit, with no fruit juice. Choosing fruits and vegetables in season can help cut costs.