We’ve all been there: unloading the backpack at the end of the day and throwing away half-eaten sandwiches and mushy bananas.
We’re almost there – the home stretch towards summer. It’s the time of year where once-nutritious school lunches become cold pizza and granola bars seem like a good choice for breakfast as you rush the kids out of the house.
May is a great time to revisit the school lunch menu in order to ensure the munchkins finish their year off on a high note. Kids (2-12 years old) should be getting 2-4 servings of vegetables a day, while teens should get 7-8 servings a day to ensure they are getting adequate nutrients through their diet. Not only do we have 12 easy school lunch ideas for you, but another ‘treat’ you can add to their backpack. Adding a multivitamin to compensate for school lunch fatigue ensures that they get the nutrients they need – even when they ‘run out of time’ to eat.
Our family has been taking IronKids Gummies and Adult Essentials for three months, and we are all noticing a difference in energy. My nails are stronger and hair is growing fast. The gummies are gluten, dairy and nut-fee, and contain no sugar coating, nor artificial flavours or colours. Because they meet strict school allergy requirements, I’ve started sending them in school lunches, so even when the kids don’t finish their lunch, they get a mid-day energy boost.
But let’s try to end the year on a great note by coming up with a few easy school lunches they will actually devour (with the IronKids Gummy on the side to make you confident they’re getting all the nutrition they need!)
1. Fruit Kebabs With Yoghurt Dip
2. Quinoa Turkey Meatballs in a Thermos
3. Mini egg and green pea muffins
4. Apple, Chicken and Grape Kebabs
5. Grilled Broccoli and Cheese Panini
6. Cream Cheese, Pear and Honey on mini-bagels
7. DIY Beef and Bean Tacos
8. Chicken Drumsticks with Edamame
9. Brown Sugar Apples
11. Moroccan Chicken Couscous
12. Savoury Muffins
“Disclosure: I am part of the Life Science Nutritionals blogger program with Influence Central and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”
50g pine nuts (leave out if your school has nut allergies)
500g chicken breast or thigh fillet, cut into 2cm dice
1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground mild paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup sultanas
1 cup (250mL) chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, juiced
2 cups couscous
2 cups water or chicken stock
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
thick natural yoghurt, to serve
- Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add pine nuts, stirring constantly until just starting to colour. Transfer pine nuts to a plate.
- Place seasoned flour in a large bowl, add chicken and toss to coat. Add one tbsp of oil to the frypan, increase heat to high and cook half the chicken until golden. Transfer cooked chicken to a plate. Repeat with another tbsp of oil and remaining chicken.
- Heat remaining tbsp of oil in pan. Add onions, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until golden and softened. Add cooked chicken to frypan with spices, sultanas and one cup of stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 5-10 minutes until heated through and thickened. Just before serving, stir in pine nuts, coriander and lemon juice.
- To prepare couscous, bring 2 cups of stock or water to the boil in a small saucepan, stir in couscous and olive oil and turn off heat. Leave for 5 minutes, then use a fork to separate the couscous grains.
- Serve chicken with couscous and yoghurt.
Photo Credit: Irena Macri
Homemade Fruit Roll-ups are a fantastic snack and a great activity to make with the kids. Better yet? When you make them yourself you save money and know exactly what ingredients are going into the kids’ lunches.
Fruit Roll Ups
2 cups organic strawberries
¼ tsp cinnamon
Blend the fruit until smooth, then spread onto a Teflex sheet or a parchment-lined baking sheet.
If using a dehydrator, dehydrate at 105 degrees F for 8-10 hours or until the fruit is pliable and easy to peel from the sheet.
If using an oven, leave it on at the lowest temperature until the fruit is dry (times will vary depending on the oven).
Cut into strips and store in a glass container in the refrigerator.
From My Edible Advice
We all know that creative lunches can be hard to figure out. But recent research By Hellmann’s indicates that we might be wasting more lunchtime food than we originally thought. More than two thirds (72%) of Canadian parents who were polled believe that their children do not throw away lunch items while almost a third (31%) of Canadian children admit they throw out some of their lunch items, and nearly half (46%) report that they regularly trade some of their lunch items with friends. Oops. Based on the outcome of the study, Hellmann’s partnered with Chuck Hughes to give parents a few new lunch tricks that will keep the school trash bins from filling up. Here are Chuck Hughes Kid-Friendly Chicken Fingers.
Just make sure they are kept nice and cold when you send them to school. (We love the Land’s End Madbox for this feature)!
- 2 Skinless Chicken breasts
- Half cup of whole wheat flour
- Half cup of Hellmann’s® mayonnaise
- 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs or panko
- 1 tsp of cajun spice
- Half tsp of garlic powder
- Salt and Pepper
- Zest of a lemon
- Cut strips of chicken and dredge in whole wheat flour.
- Then coat the chicken with Hellmann’s® mayonnaise and toss in with the breadcrumbs, zest, cajun spice, garlic powder and Salt and Pepper
- Place Strips on a plaque covered with parchment paper. Pre-heat oven at 400 degrees
- Place in oven for approx 25 minutes flipping them half-way
- Serve with Honey-Mustard, ketchup and Caesar mayonnaise- see below
- Half cup Hellmann’s® mayonnaise
- 1 tsp of chopped capers
- zest of half lemon and 1 tsp of juice
- 1 tbsp of chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp of grated parmesan
- Salt and Pepper
Mix everything in a bowl and serve.
No time in the morning to pack a warm meal for yourself or your children? Enjoy a comforting meal with the Crock-Pot Lunch Warmer. It warms food on the go, while still staying cool to the touch outside for safety. It’s easy to clean-just stick the removable food storage container in the dishwasher! You can even leave the warming base at work/school and use the detachable food container to transport meals back and forth. How about packing last night’s leftovers of Slow Cooker Lasagna for a nutritious lunch? Crock-Pot
This year we have illustrious plans. Lunches will be made the night before, they will include fun, healthy options, and ‘litterless‘ will be a huge goal. Ok, even if we only bat one for three, here are a few tips that may make coming up with healthy school lunch ideas a bit easier.
1. Substitute avocado or hummus for mayo – avocado serves as a healthy fat source plus provides a creamy spread for sandwiches.
2. Use your slow cooker overnight to have healthy hot thermos food ready and waiting in the morning. Hot lunches are a treat in the winter. (Or you could just reheat leftovers). Our Slow Cooker Pinterest Board is a great source for recipes.
3. Pep up your plain old PB&J with almond butter and fresh fruit slices –fresh fruit means natural sugars. Check with the school if ‘peanut-free’ also means ‘almond-free’. Stores like Whole Foods have great peanut butter alternatives.
4. Margaret Ng, Health and Wellness Manager, at Pacific Blue Cross recommends always using whole grain breads or tortillas – wraps are a fun change of pace especially when they are packed with veggies. And when you’re not around to hear the kids complain, we bet they’ll forgo the white bread – especially after a busy morning of school.
5. Swap processed chips and snacks for healthier homemade options like trail mix with dried fruits and nuts, homemade fruit roll-ups or granola balls.
6. Keep it petite: Little people enjoy little portions so they can snack through the day. Out: the double-decker hero sandwich. In: A stylish Bento box filled with flavours and colours.
7. Play with their food. It needn’t take a ton of extra time to cut their sandwiches with cookie cutters or insert raisin eyes into a celery/cream cheese caterpillar. If you want more fun ideas we are always updating our school lunch Pinterest board.
8. Add fun with finger foods: Experiment with nutritious dips and spreads for veggies and crackers. Alternatively, boil an egg they can peel themselves.
9. Consult your kid: There is no better way to ensure they eat their lunch than by getting their buy-in. Find out what their favourite snacks are and shop accordingly. If they are older, give them an assignment at the grocery store to find 5 healthy options they will want to take in their lunch and send them down the aisles. (Make sure you get veto-power though).
Good Luck and Happy Lunch-making!
Back to school means back to a routine, back to feeling crazy busy and back to packing lunches. Aside from the daily content question of what to pack, have you given much thought to how you’re packing your lunches? A waste-free lunch by definition is one that contains no throwaway packaging or food leftovers. In terms of lunch gear products, re-usability is the number one factor when packing a waste-free lunch. A second factor, critical for your child’s health, is non-toxicity and a final factor to consider is durability. If you’re going to invest in reusable lunch gear, it makes sense to ensure it’s made to last. It also makes sense to encourage your child’s input on colours and patterns to encourage them to pack up their re-usables for taking home.
With just a little planning, packing waste-free lunches is easy – and important. Here are five reasons why you should pack a waste-free lunch for school.
It’s good for the environment. The average student’s lunch generates a total of 30 kg of waste per school year, or an average of 8500 kg (18,700 lbs) of waste per school per year, according to the Recycling Council of Ontario. Waste-free lunches reduce the amount of garbage going into our landfills, including plastic bags that actually never go away. Pack only what you think your child will eat and keep it cold with a freezable lunch bag or eco-friendly ice pack to ensure minimal food waste at the end of the day.
It’s good for your child’s health. Packing lunch into re-usables means your child will most likely end up with a healthier lunch as you’ll be avoiding prepackaged and heavily processed foods loaded with sugars and additives. You’ll also be able to control the materials your child’s food comes into contact with, ie. choosing non-leaching glass or stainless steel food containers over plastics that may contain endocrine disrupting chemicals which affect hormone levels.
It’s environmental stewardship by example. If your kids see you making the effort to reduce the amount of waste you’re packing for them on a daily basis, they’ll begin to understand the importance of reducing our footprint on the earth. Then there’s the knock-on effect of their friends seeing how little waste they’re generating, and so on, and so on.
It can save you money. It is estimated that packing a disposable lunch complete with plastic baggies, plastic spoon, juice bag costs $4.02 per day compared to a waste-free lunch packed with reusables at $2.65 per day. That’s $20.10 per week versus $13.25 per week and a saving of $1.37 a day or $6.85 a week. Clearly, the cost of a throwaway lunch adds up – and quickly. Waste-free lunches mean buying larger package sizes, even bulk and can actually become money savers for families.
It can help prepare you for the inevitable. If your child’s school hasn’t already introduced a ‘waste-free lunch challenge’ or ‘litterless lunch day’, it likely will – and soon. More and more schools are introducing the concept of environmental responsibility to students and lunch waste is an ideal way to demonstrate it.
Tips for packing a waste-free lunch
Avoid boxes of individually prepackaged snacks and instead buy regular size boxes of cookies, crackers, tubs of yoghurt and simply transfer small amounts into reusable snack containers and pouches.
Flexible and reusable fabric snack pouches (with either a zipper or velcro closure) are ideal for recess as they can be rolled up and stored in a pocket when empty.
In the rush to get out to the playground, juice tetra packs and drinking boxes you think will make it into the recycling box, often don’t. Non-leaching, double wall insulated and highly durable BPA-free stainless steel water bottles that can stand up to the occasional knock or fall off a desk are a smart option.
Don’t forget reusable cutlery with your packed lunches – and on hot lunch days too. Otherwise your child will more than likely be provided with a one-use disposable plastic fork or spoon.
– Louise Campbell
2 slices raisin, whole wheat or regular sandwich bread
As needed Butter
2 tbsp peanut butter
½ banana, thinly sliced
Generous sprinkles brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger