Fall means – Back to school, 🥳

One of the big stressors I hear this time of year is planning healthy lunches; for kids and parents!

With the world of social media comes increased pressures to pack the perfect lunch, but I am here to tell you that your child does not need to go to school everyday with a picture perfect bento box filled with colour coordinated snacks and vegetables cut into stars.

If you are someone who enjoys that and has the time and resources, then that is awesome!

If you are juggling work, school, and home life and send your child to school with a sandwich, string cheese, and an applesauce, then that is awesome too!

The main goal is to provide nourishment to brains and bodies so that kids can concentrate and participate to their fullest, and both of these lunches accomplish that goal, so give yourself a pat on the back. 😊

Tips for winning the school lunch game:

Get the kids involved

Involving your children in the process helps to build food skills and healthy habits, in addition to reducing picky eating tendencies. When possible, include them in the meal planning, shopping, and preparation processes.

For older kids, give them the tools and resources, then allow them to make their own;

    • Provide a template of what constitutes a good lunch
    • Have veggies, fruits, sandwich fixin’s, leftovers, etc. available. This creates autonomy and you might be surprised at how good they do. Of course if they do decide that lunch should be made up of nothing but leftover Halloween candy and pudding cups you may have to intervene. 😉

Request feedback

This can help you reduce food waste and get a better understanding of what happens in the classroom. For example:

  • “Why don’t you eat your yogurt I pack?”
    • Don’t like this flavour
    • Didn’t have time
    • Doesn’t stay cold enough
    • Too hard to open
  • Other questions to ask:
    • Did you have enough to eat? Or too much?
    • Did you share with others? Did others share with you?

Meal prep

  • Make school lunches part of your weekly meal prep
    • Cook extra chicken breast to use as chicken salad
    • Make a double batch of soup on Monday to add to lunches throughout the week
  • Set aside some time to pre-prepare some go-to snacks as grab & go items:
    • Washed whole fruit
    • Pre-portioned veggie sticks with hummus
    • Small containers of sliced cheese, crackers, berries, trail mix (if allowed) etc.

Invest in a couple staples if you can

This can make the daily lunch-packing routine just a little less stressful, and more straightforward.

  • Thermos
  • Ice pack
  • Containers that won’t leak
  • Lunch bag that can hold it all

What does a good lunch look like?

  • The food items will vary greatly depending on budget, preferences, resources, and culture, but there are a few staples you should try and aim to include:
    • Fruits and veggies (fresh, frozen, or even canned)
    • Whole grains/starches (carbohydrates are the brain’s main fuel source)
    • Protein (to help grow strong bones and muscles)
  • You also want to make sure you pack enough snacks to get through recess/snack time and lunch time.
  • Examples:
    • Tuna sandwich on whole grain bread, Greek yogurt cup, celery sticks with hummus, apple slices with cinnamon
    • Quinoa salad with chickpeas, cheese cubes with whole grain crackers, applesauce, air popped popcorn
    • Turkey and cheese rollups, fruit leather, peanut free trail mix, carrot sticks with yogurt dip
    • Leftover pasta with bolognese, milk, whole grain tortilla chips with guacamole/salsa, banana
    • Soup/stew with salad (if you have a kid that likes salad!), mini muffins, fruit cocktail, hard boiled egg

While the focus this entire time has been on school lunches, don’t forget that these principles are equally valuable for grown up lunches too! Pack enough to get yourself through the day, have a supply of healthy go-to snacks, include fruits, veggies, carbs, and proteins, and make sure to pack foods that you will enjoy!