A Dozen Back to School Lunch Ideas

Parents look forward to “back to school,” with a combination of joy and frustration. The joy comes with having children returning to their regular routine and the frustration can come from something as simple as deciding what to pack them for lunch.

To avoid having that lunch eaten by a classmate or tossed in the garbage, Alberta Health Services registered dietitians offer these 12 simple ways to make packing a lunch easy, delicious, and healthy:

  1. Plan out the week’s lunches ahead of time so you can keep things interesting. 
  2. Ask your kids what they want for lunch and have them get it ready. Have a selection of healthy options – for example, cut up vegetables or fruit. If they have a say in what they get, they are more likely to eat it.
  3. Prepare a family favourite casserole or lasagne for dinner – something your kids love – make extra for leftover servings for lunches.  Use these leftovers within one to two days if refrigerated, or freeze into individual portions.
  4. Give your child a variety of foods. Pick at least three of the four food groups from Canada’s Food Guide. When choosing grain products, choose whole grains most often, including pitas, rice, crackers, bread, granola bars, pasta, or popcorn. With milk products, choose lower fat varieties such as 1% or 2% milk, plain lower fat yogurt with fresh fruit added, or lower fat cheese.
  5. At the grocery store, buy snacks in bulk. Get your kids to split them into single-serving portions in plastic bags or small containers. Use Canada’s Food Guide to determine the serving sizes.  A few snack ideas include: whole grain crackers, dry cereal, dried fruit, plain popcorn, pita chips, or trail mix.
  6. Keep the assortment of snacks in bins in a convenient place for kids to grab when packing their lunches. Make your own wrapped cheese portions using plastic wrap. 
  7. Have your kids prepare their own containers with their favourite vegetables. Toss in a small container of light ranch dressing or low fat plain yogurt for dipping. Put the cut up veggies in a bin in the fridge so that they are easy to grab. Portion out vegetables for a few days. Some ideas include: cucumber wedges, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, celery sticks, snap peas, cauliflower or broccoli.
  8. Take advantage of nature’s fast food – whole fruits such as apples, oranges, and peaches are easy and convenient.  Cut up watermelon and store in bags to be ready to grab for lunches quickly.  Add fresh or frozen berries to plain, lower fat yogurt or make it into a parfait by adding a few tablespoons of cereal or granola. You can also buy canned, unsweetened fruit packed in juice or water.
  9. Take advantage of farmers markets and seasonal summer fruit. Some ideas include: peaches, nectarines, plums, pears, berries, and apples.
  10. To avoid the morning rush, pack lunches the night before.  Mix up tuna or egg salad filling the night before and in the morning, easily add the filling to bread and assemble in no time!
  11. Try filling whole wheat tortilla wraps or pitas with something more interesting. Try pizza sauce, leftover chicken, shredded cheese, and vegetables on a pita – they can heat it in the microwave for an instant calzone. (Try the Chicken Pita recipe below)
  12. Don’t forget to pack an extra healthy snack for afterschool activities. 

If you follow these easy steps, you will soon be the master of school lunches.  Now, sit back and enjoy your peaceful home.

Chicken Pitas

Do you have leftover chicken in the fridge?  This quick and easy lunch recipe is perfect for busy weekends or workday lunches. Just assemble and serve with some fruit and milk.

Ingredients:

  • 4 whole wheat pitas, 16.5 cm (6 inches) in diameter
  • 4 medium Romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced

Directions:

  • Lay pitas flat, cover with lettuce, tomato and half of chicken breast each
  • Fold in half and secure with toothpicks

Makes four servings. Each pita has 330 calories, 4 grams of fat, 39 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre.

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