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Recipes and Tips for School Lunches

September 3, 2013 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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If you're still teary from dropping your child off for the first day of school, grab a tissue, know it will get easier and keep reading.

Back to school lunches are nothing to fear. Becoming a lunch box expert just requires a little planning and a few handy tools.

What do I pack for lunch?

A well balanced lunch includes at least one food from every food group of Canada's Food Guide. Leftover pasta, pita pizzas, sandwiches and wraps are all quick and delicious kid approved meals and they all have ingredients from at least two food groups (usually Grain Products and Meat and Alternatives). Add cute containers of cut-up veggie sticks and cheese cubes, or fruit chunks and yogurt, and you've got lunch.

Recipe ideas and tips that'll help you become a lunch box expert in no time:

How do I pack it?

Having the right tools means you won't be stuck with containers with no lids at the 11th hour. Here are 5 tools that help make packing lunches a breeze.

  1. Soft insulated cooler bag: These are squishable but still help to keep foods at safe temperatures. If you're buying a new one, ask your child to help pick one out or decorate one you already have to suit their personality and interests.
  2. Re-useable containers: Choose durable containers in different shapes and sizes. Buy multiples so that you can pack lunches when some of them are in the dishwasher (or forgotten in a backpack).
  3. Tip: Prep vacuum flasks before using them. A few minutes before filling with food or beverages, fill them with boiling water for hot foods or pop them in the freezer for cold foods. This will help keep foods hot or cold for longer. Vacuum flask: Many people know these by the brand name Thermos®. A wide-mouth vacuum flask is great for packing smoothies, pasta, casseroles, soup, stew, chili, meatballs, and other leftovers. 
  4. Utensils: Pick up some second hand stainless steel utensils. They will be easy to use and clean and it won't be a big deal if they are lost.
  5. Ice pack: Hard or soft ice packs or frozen re-useable water bottles help keep cold foods cold and out of the danger zone (foods like meat, poultry, dairy and eggs need to be kept at < 4°C or > 60°C).

While you're at it, pack yourself a lunch too!

If you need more ideas or have questions about how to make balanced school lunches (or any other food and nutrition questions), talk to a HealthLink BC Dietitian. The service is free and is for all B.C. residents. Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 or email a HealthLink BC Dietitian.


Related Posts & Recommended Resources:

Back to school can be done better together
Fresh ideas for school lunches
Food safety: easy steps to make food safe
Food safety tips - interactive guide

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