4 great foods to pack for lunch instead of processed meat

The World Health Organization said this week that processed meat can cause cancer. So, what should you pack in your child's lunch box? Kitchener dietitian Suzanne Dietrich suggests four alternatives.
Kitchener dietitian Suzanne Dietrich said processed meats have become lunch box staples over the past few decades. (Jake May/Flint Journal/Associated Press)

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer has put processed meats like bologna and hot dogs on a list of foods that can cause cancer in humans, which means parents in Waterloo Region may be wondering what to pack for their children's lunches. 

Processed meats have become lunch box staples over the past few decades, said Kitchener dietitian Suzanne Dietrich in an interview with CBC Radio's Craig Norris on The Morning Edition.

"It's convenient for parents to put in the lunch," Dietrich said. "It's affordable, and with some of the restrictions that we have in terms of what we can put in kids' lunches – we're not allowed to send peanut butter sandwiches anymore – it's an easy option."

But Dietrich said WHO's position on processed meats doesn't mean parents have to sacrifice convenience for their children's health.

Here are some quick-to-prepare alternatives for tomorrow's lunch box:

  1. Leftovers: no preparation required, just scoop yesterday's dinner into a thermos.
  2. Roast meats: home-roasted beef or chicken can be sliced thinly and added to sandwiches.
  3. Meat alternatives: cheese, eggs and legumes, like beans and chickpeas, are full of protein and are very lunch box-friendly.
  4. Seeds: sunflower and pumpkin seeds make great snacks.

Dietrich adds that parents shouldn't be afraid to let their children eat processed meats once in a while. 

"I think we have to be careful not to demonise certain food items," she said, "because, with children, that can cause anxiety, and when eating becomes stressful, that is when nutrition suffers."


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