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Your Guide to Stress-free School Lunches

September 8, 2015 by Andrea Godfreyson, Registered Dietitian

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Here’s the best case scenario for school lunches…You get your kids involved in helping plan their lunches for the week, you make a grocery list according to this plan, and you then buy and prepare all the supplies on the weekend so you’re set up nicely for stress-free lunches all week long. If this doesn’t sound like your real life, read on.

Depending on how busy life is, you may find it hard enough just to throw something into your child’s lunchbox before they leave for school, let alone something healthy and well-balanced. Avoid the lunchbox scramble – start at step 1 below and pack your fridge and pantry with healthy store-bought staples. This will make it easy to mix and match for a balanced school lunch. If you find you have time to plan and prepare ahead with lunches, check out steps 2 and 3.

Step 1: Keep healthy store-bought foods on hand

Here are some “no-time-required” lunch staples you can use to build or round out a lunch:

  • Baby carrots, grape tomatoes and snap peas
  • Pieces of whole fruit
  • Single-serve containers of unsweetened applesauce (or other fruit)
  • Single-serve containers of diced fruit packed in juice or water
  • Whole grain crackers or mini pitas
  • String cheese or cheese portions
  • Single-serve yogurts
  • Mini cans of flavoured tuna
  • Individual packs of hummus

Step 2: Prepare quick grab-and-go foods for the week

If you have time on Sunday or the night before, prepare one or more of these quick and easy foods to help round out the week’s lunches:

  • Pack cut-up veggies in individual containers for the week (try baby carrots or carrot sticks, pepper strips, snap peas, celery sticks, broccoli or cauliflower trees, or cucumber rounds)
  • Pack dips for the veggies in little containers for each day (try Greek yogurt dips, guacamole, hummus, tzatziki)
  • Edamame
  • Salad (try mixed bean, quinoa, barley and wild rice or chickpea and carrot)
  • Granola – pack plain yogurt and berries separately to make a parfait
  • No bake granola bars
  • Bean dip and chips
  • Boiled eggs (an easy, inexpensive option if your kids don’t mind the smell!)
  • Yogurt dip for fruit – pack cut-up fruit, apple slices or a banana to dip in the morning
  • Nut-free trail mix – pick your child’s favourite ingredients and make a mix just for them (pick from whole grain lower sugar cereals, air-popped popcorn, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, soy nuts, dried apples, cherries, pineapple, mango or apricots, raisins, coconut flakes, granola and season with cinnamon, ground ginger or curry if you like)
  • Sandwiches and wraps (make these the night before)

Step 3: Have grab-and-go foods ready in the freezer

This takes a bit of work up front, but making a batch in advance and freezing it will make sure that there’s always healthy food to grab for the lunch box.

Tip: if you have leftovers from supper, just portion out individual servings and freeze them. This helps prevent eating leftovers too many times in a row, prevents waste from taste fatigue and keeps meals stocked in the freezer.

What do your kids like in their lunches? Share your tips and tricks for healthy school lunches by commenting below or on our Facebook page.


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Fresh Ideas for School Lunches

Recommended resources

Healthy Canadians: Healthy school lunches
Better Together

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Comments (1)

Dean

Posted on Tuesday September 15, 2015 a 9:25am

Hey Andrea, great tips thanks. Do you have any other advice for parents of daycare/preschool aged children? Love your posts.

Dean

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