September 1st

theresa albert - my friend in food


Good Behaviour Lunchboxes

Lunch Box for Adults

What goes into the belly at lunch predicts the afternoon’s behaviour and focus.  It is just that simple.  The wrong lunch can make the blood sugar soar and then plummet which means mood swings.  Nutrition aside (I mean, everyone knows to avoid sweets and stock up on veg, right?) there is a whole bunch of in-between that you can do to be sure each day is productive. Not just for the kids (and their teacher’s sanity) but for you too.

A good breakfast that contains protein and fibre will set up a blood sugar level that is sustainable. By lunch, the body wants fuel or it will get sleepy.  Sleepy kids turn into either crabby kids or hyper kids, you know which was yours is (could be both!). Lunch needs to focus on two things in order to prevent that

  1. slow burning protein as fuel
  2.  the avoidance of sugar and food colour

Protein provides calories that burn slowly and sustain energy levels. It will also help slow down the body’s uptake of other foods like bread, treats, juice that can cause a blood sugar spike.  Here are some good choices:

  • Cooked whole wheat tortellini (meat or cheese)
  • Roasted chicken or cooked chicken breast in place of lunch meats
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese strings
  • Thermos of soup/stew/chilli

The rush obtained from a cookie or juice will quickly dissipate and behaviour won’t be far behind.  I am always surprised to hear parents say that they never made the connection.  A blood sugar crash is biologically present to turn the body into a bear on the prowl.  It is intended to increase the desire to hunt/search/pick food above all other tasks. The trouble is that we don’t cognitively know that’s what we are supposed to do so we just get randomly nasty.

To avoid the crash:

  • Avoid  packages that contain excessive amounts of sugar, glucose-fructose, liquid invert sugar, corn syrup
  • Bake a few banana loaves, zucchini bread or sweet potato muffins on the weekend and freeze them to be packed throughout the week. This ensures that you can control the amount of sugar plus use whole grain flour which is higher in fibre.  The fibre, like protein, also slows down the sugar’s march into the blood stream.

If your child is sensitive, or has behaviour issues at all think about avoiding food colour.  Well, really, there is no need to be consuming it at all for any of us but the studies do show that these substances may negatively affect behaviour in specific people.


  • Any label that contains the word “colour”

In Canada that could mean any one of a number of natural or artificial food colours that have been linked to hyperactivity in children, asthma, skin rashes, and migraines and have been banned in Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and France. Tartrazine is one of the specific ingredients that you want to avoid and it may not be listed as such. It is often used to create that yellow or orange tinge in many baked goods.


In other countries including the US, each specific dye that is used needs to be named but right now, In Canada, the legislation does allow just the category “colour” to be listed.


Do you have any success stories to share (or nightmares!) about how a change in diet has affected your child’s behaviour?

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert

As a Toronto Nutritionist, I love food, try to watch my weight, know more than I want to about healthy living (sometimes I wish I knew less so I wouldn’t feel so guilty when I stumble), am a daughter, sister, friend, mom and wife who worries and scurries the meals onto the table. It is for all these reasons that I completed my nutrition, RNCP designation, wrote my book, hosted my Food Network show, consult with food companies to urge them to get it right (or at least better), constantly write about it, research it, all of this so I can cut through the nutrition and food “news” clutter. Happy to share with friends!

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