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.
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.