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 reusables for taking home.
We’ve all been there: unloading the backpack at the end of the day and throwing away half-eaten sandwiches and mushy bananas.
This Moroccan Chicken Couscous is perfect for a school lunch. Served hot or cold, my kids adore every bite.
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
Do your kids love fruit roll ups, but you don’t love that store bought ones are mostly just sugar?! Our 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.
Homemade fruit roll-ups recipe
2 cups organic strawberries (or other fruit)
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!
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