Summer has come and gone by quickly and it’s time to face…the (*dreaded*) lunchbox! Many parents want to make food that is nutritious, easy to prepare AND tasty for their little students, but it can be a real challenge to come up with healthy lunch ideas day after day. Packing a healthy lunch doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming – here are some ideas to make it easy!
From Leftovers to Lunch
Talk about convenient! Packing sandwiches is easy enough, but one great way to cut down on extra cooking and prepping is to make enough at dinner time to have leftovers for lunch. The extra bonus is that home-cooked leftovers can provide more nutrition and may actually be a less time-consuming option than making sandwiches day after day. Chili, whole wheat spaghetti with meatballs, cooked rice dishes, and homemade macaroni and cheese can all be included in lunchboxes.
Just Wrap It!
Wraps, or “roll-ups”, are a tasty, fun and attractive alternative to the traditional sandwich. My kids have eaten foods they normally turn down when I roll it up in a tortilla. They’re super easy to make – just place any filling you’d typically put into a sandwich on a tortilla ( I like things like hummus, avocado, nut butters, soft fruit, canned salmon, cheese, roasted chicken or turkey, egg salad, mixed veggies, etc.), roll it up and then cut 1cm thick pinwheel slices from each wrap. They’re delicious and stack well in containers!
The lure of those unhealthy, packaged Lunchables is convenience – but have you ever actually read their ingredient list? It’s kinda scary! There’s no need to sacrifice good nutrition when you can create easy homemade Lunchables that are far more nutritious and affordable! Here’s a simple formula that you can follow:
1 starch + 2 proteins + 2 fruits/vegetables + 1 drink (+1 optional treat)
As to what you want the starch to be or what type of protein is packed, the sky is the limit! The easiest thing to do is to simply pack whatever you happen to have in the fridge, which is another great way to use up leftovers. If you’re stuck on what to pack, these ideas can help:
- Whole grain crackers/pretzels + ham + Swiss + mustard for tiny sandwiches
- Pita + pepperoni + mozzarella + pizza sauce for a mini pizza
- Tortilla wrap + sliced chicken + shredded cheddar + salsa for a little burrito
So Many Snacks
Putting together a lunch of ‘snacks’ is also an easy option for busy days. Try including a selection of favourites like carrots, celery, hard boiled eggs, trail mix, apple sauce, cheese cubes and frozen veggies in your child’s lunchbox. They will love the variety. A selection of nutritious dips and spreads can also make a great light lunch.
With a little bit of practice, you’ll become an expert at packing a nutritious lunch in no time. I will leave you with a few last tips to help you get ready for the “Back to School” season:
- Include a variety of fruits and veggies to add colour to lunches, but be sure to cut them into kid-friendly bite-sized pieces.
- Muffin-tin liners make excellent compartments for lunchboxes – you can use them to separate foods if you don’t have a segmented container to work with.
- These veggies work best for packed lunches: carrots, celery, jicama, radishes, grape tomatoes and bell peppers. Tip: you can add a small piece of wet paper towel to individual containers or baggies so the veggies stay crisp.
- Avoid packing processed snacks like chips, cookies or even store-bought granola bars. They typically have a lot of added sugar and other preservatives.
- If you want to get a little fancy, simply use your favorite cookie cutters to quickly cut sandwiches and other soft lunch items into fun shapes!
- Plan a weekly lunch menu with your children and get them involved in grocery shopping and cooking. They’ll get excited about eating healthy foods, learn valuable skills and look forward to lunchtime. You can have your kids help you with things like making various sandwich fillings and healthy dips, slicing up your favorite fruits and veggies, creating your own healthy snack mixes or baking a batch of healthy muffins for lunchbox treats.
About the Author:
Barb practices a holistic approach to health and wellness, which means that she looks at how all of the areas of her client’s lives – activity level, eating habits, stress, relationships, and work – are interconnected. She then helps them work towards the results they desire, such as such as achieving an optimal weight, reducing cravings, incorporating more healthy foods into family meals, and minimizing fatigue, in realistic and enjoyable steps! Barb doesn’t believe in magic pills or fad diets, and has seen firsthand how dramatic results can be achieved through simple nutritional and lifestyle improvements! For more information about, please visit