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Photo of young children next to a school bus

Healthy foods have a huge impact on your child's health and performance in school.

What is the Balanced School Day?

A balanced school day uses a timetable which is different from the traditional school schedule. It consists of three 100 minute teaching blocks separated by two “Nutrition Breaks”. The Nutrition Breaks allow enough time for students to eat a healthy meal or snack and be active.

This schedule change does not affect the length of the school day; schools keep the same start and end times.

Advantages to the Balanced School Day:

  • Longer teaching periods allow for more time on task.
  • Increased focus and concentration with less time needed for transitions throughout the day.
  • Break times are used more efficiently due to longer length.
  • Daily Physical Activity is more easily incorporated into the day, improving students’ overall health.
  • Children have more time to eat and play, so they don’t feel rushed.

Format of a Balanced School Day Schedule

Your school's schedule may be different from this, but as an example, the Balanced School Day is laid out in the following time blocks

Teaching Block A

9:15 - 10:55 a.m.


Nutrition Break 1

10:55 - 11:40 a.m.


Teaching Block B

11:40 a.m. - 1:20 p.m.


Nutrition Break 2

1:20 - 1:50 p.m.


Teaching Block C

1:50 - 3:30 p.m.


Dismissal

3:30 p.m.

Breakfast is Very Important

It provides one-third of the nutrients your child needs for the day. A healthy breakfast contains three of the four food groups, for example:

  • Oatmeal, milk, a slice of meat or cheese, and an orange
  • Wholegrain toast, an egg, yogurt and 100% orange juice
  • Regular or Greek yogurt with canned peaches, and a slice of toast and milk to drink
  • Cooked rice and beans , applesauce, and milk
  • Wholegrain toast, peanut butter, and milk

Breakfast is even more important on the Balanced School Day, because the first break is often late in the morning, usually around 10:55 a.m. If your child skips breakfast, or doesn’t have an adequate breakfast, they may be very hungry at first break and eat all of their packed food, leaving nothing
for the second nutrition break.

Be careful not to over feed your child. Also avoid or limit the use of empty nutrient snacks like chips, chocolate bars, and cookies. These snacks may fill them up, but the calories can add up. When your children get home from school, have plenty of wholesome snacks available such as, plain popcorn,
a healthy trail mix, cereal and milk, cut-up vegetables and dip, and fresh fruit.

Packing for Success

Photo of a healthy lunch, including water and a sandwich on whole wheat bread

Children on the balanced day need to eat the same amount of food during the day as they did on the traditional timetable. The only difference is the time of day when the food is eaten.

Follow these tips for packing a healthy snack and lunch:

  1. Divide the lunch bag into two sections with a bottom and top layer. Label the top layer as snack and the bottom layer as lunch or use colours if your child can’t read yet.
  2. Include a high protein food like a hard-boiled egg, cheese, or hummus for their snack to keep your child feeling full longer. Combine this with one or more healthy carbohydrates like wholegrain crackers, bread, fresh fruit, or vegetables.
  3. At the lunch break give your children what you would normally give them for lunch.
  4. Tell your children to eat only the food labelled for the first nutrition break; otherwise they might eat everything in their lunch bag and have no food for the second break.

Food Safety is very important!

  • Use an insulated lunch bag.
  • Keep hot foods hot! Heat them just before your child leaves for school. Pack the hot food into a thermos that has been preheated first with hot water.
  • Keep cold foods cold! Use a frozen drink that will thaw by first break and a cold pack to keep foods cold until second break.

What about Lunchables and Snack Bars?

Lunchables are not healthy.

Make your own using wholegrain mini pita pockets, crackers, or mini-muffins, cubed cheese,
sliced lean meat, cut-up fresh vegetables and dip, and fresh fruit.

Snack bars are usually high in sugar and fat and low in fibre and nutrients. Look for wholegrain snack bars with 4 g of fibre and 5 g of protein per serving. Protein and fibre will help keep your child feeling full.

Base your nutrition breaks on Canada's Food Guide aiming for at least three of the four food groups.
The four food groups are: vegetables and fruit, grain products, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives.

Healthy foods have a huge impact on your child’s health and performance in school. Nutrition breaks are not the time to eat foods like chips, candy, fast foods, and pop. Lunchables and most snack bars are also not healthy.

Involve your children in planning and packing their food for the day. They are more likely to eat what’s packed when they have been involved.

Below are ideas for your child's break. Mix and match them according to your child’s preferences. Follow Canada’s Food Guide for serving sizes.

Week Day Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Monday
Break 1 - Snack
  • Greek yogurt
  • Apple
  • Beverage*
  • Mini rice cakes with hummus
  • Orange sections
  • Beverage*
  • Greek yogurt
  • Fruit cup
  • Beverage*
  • Raisin bread with cheese
  • Orange segments
  • Beverage*
Monday
Break 2 - Lunch
  • Cheese sandwich
  • Broccoli
  • Oatmeal cookie
  • Beverage*
  • Pasta salad & chicken
  • Sweet pepper strips
  • Oatmeal cookie
  • Apple
  • Beverage*
  • Roast beef sandwich
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • Plum
  • Beverage*
  • Salmon wrap
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Beverage*
Tuesday
Break 1 - Snack
  • Whole grain dry cereal
  • Milk
  • Raisins
  • Beverage*
  • Small muffin
  • Cheese
  • Kiwi slices
  • Beverage*
  • Small muffin
  • Yogurt with fresh or frozen berries
  • Beverage*
  • Small whole grain roll
  • Soy or pea butter (peanut butter substitutes, if allowed)
  • Yogurt
  • Beverage*
Tuesday
Break 2 - Lunch
  • Mini pitas with egg salad
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • Milk pudding
  • Beverage*
  • Dahl (lentil stew)
  • Naan bread
  • Mixed raw vegetables and dip
  • Banana
  • Beverage
  • Bean salad
  • Mini pitas
  • Apple
  • One small cookie
  • Beverage*
  • Whole grain spaghetti and meatballs
  • Tossed salad with grated cheese
  • Apple
  • Beverage*
Wednesday
Break 1 - Snack
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Low-fat refried beans and salsa dip
  • Peach halves
  • Beverage*
  • Mini wrap with banana and soy or pea butter (peanut butter substitutes, if allowed)
  • Unsweetened apple sauce
  • Beverage*
  • Raisin bread with cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Beverage*
  • Small homemade pizza
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Beverage*
Wednesday
Break 2 - Lunch
  • Whole grain bagel
  • Tuna
  • Multi-coloured pepper strips
  • Plum
  • Beverage*
  • Stir-fried beef and rice
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • Fig bars
  • Beverage*
  • Chili with grated cheese
  • Whole wheat roll
  • Pear
  • Beverage*
  • Baked beans
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Baby carrots
  • Orange segments
  • Beverage*
Thursday
Break 1 - Snack
  • Hot oatmeal or congee (rice porridge)
  • Yogurt
  • Grapes
  • Beverage*
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Cheese cubes
  • Peach
  • Beverage*
  • Mini pitas with tuna
  • Orange
  • Beverage*
  • Whole grain dry cereal
  • Milk
  • Peach
  • Beverage*
Thursday
Break 2 - Lunch
  • Ham sandwich made on a small bun
  • Tomatoes and cucumbers
  • Banana
  • Beverage*
  • Tomato soup
  • Turkey sandwich
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Beverage*
  • Chicken wrap
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Peach
  • Beverage*
  • Hummus
  • Mini pitas
  • Yogurt
  • Cucumber and tomato slices
  • Beverage*
Friday
Break 1 - Snack
  • Whole grain bread with cheese
  • Cucumber and tomato slices
  • Beverage*
  • Dry cereal
  • Milk
  • Banana
  • Beverage*
  • Pumpkin loaf
  • Orange sections
  • Yogurt
  • Beverage*
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Cheese
  • Pear
  • Beverage*
Friday
Break 2 - Lunch
  • One slice veggie pizza
  • Pear
  • Beverage*
  • Cheese tortilla with salsa dip
  • Green grapes
  • Animal crackers
  • Beverage*
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Sweet pepper strips
  • Grapes
  • Beverage*
  • Chicken sandwich
  • Beverage*

*Beverage = water, lower fat milk, fortified soy beverage, fortified milk alternatives like Almond milk, or 100% juice. Beverages labelled "drinks" or "cocktails" are mainly sugar.