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Back-to-School Lunches: What you should know and 5 lunch ideas for the first week back!

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Nutrition Pathway, Cheryl Corry, RD, is pleased to introduce our guest blogger, dietetic intern, Danielle. Danielle is completing her Diploma of Dietetic Education and Practical Training at Brescia University College and her dietetic internship at Hamilton Health Sciences. Welcome to our blog Danielle!

2020 has been a crazy year so far and I think there are very few people who would disagree with that! September seems like it could be the month where we (hopefully) are able to return to some sort of normalcy with our daily routines. That includes back-to-school lunches for kids.

I grew up in a very busy household with everyone having different lunch preferences which caused a lot of anxiety for everyone. In the age of Covid-19 I can see how lunches could still cause anxiety but in a different sort of way. For this upcoming school year, keeping it easy and accessible for your kids is going to be KEY. Here is a sample week of lunch ideas to try if you are stressing about lunches for the first week back:

Day 1: Turkey, cheese and spinach “roll-ups” in a whole wheat tortilla, no-sugar added apple sauce, carrot and celery sticks with tzatziki dip

Day 2: Cheese cubes, lean deli meats and veggie “kebabs”, Greek yogurt with granola, whole fruit (such as an apple or berries), whole grain, low-fat and low sodium crackers

Day 3: Hummus with chopped veggies and whole wheat pita or tortilla, granola bar (remember to be “nut-conscious”), banana, milk

Day 4: Hard boiled eggs, Babybel cheese and melba toast, mixed, chopped veggies (cucumber, cherry tomatoes, celery), whole peach, milk of choice

Day 5: Tuna or chicken salad sandwich with spinach, “Veggie sticks”, grapes, Greek yogurt and a granola bar

Feel free to make swaps and any modifications that you’d like… these are JUST some ideas!

Things to remember about keeping your child’s back to school lunches not only appealing but also nutritious:

- Try to keep with the “healthy plate” model idea that is half of the intake coming from FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, a quarter from lean PROTEIN and/or lower fat dairy and a quarter from WHOLE GRAINS

- Kids are very visual eaters so keep it colourful and keep it interesting. Use different types of veggies, cut foods into fun shapes, serve in different ways like fruit salads or kebabs and include healthy dips such as bean or yogurt dips (high in protein!)

- Try to limit foods with added and/or refined sugar, like granola bars. We all know granola bars are classic snacks but what some parents don’t know is that they are NOTORIOUS for appearing “healthy” when they are packed with sugar. Try to aim for brands that use whole ingredients, have protein and have less than 8 g of sugar.

Tips and Ideas:

- Plan, plan, plan! Going to the grocery store with a plan of attack on the weekend can help relieve some stress around the “what are we going to have for lunch” issue.

- Get the kids involved: bring them with you to the grocery store, have them help you prep and pack their lunch bags

- Prep foods like veggies in a big batch: if they’re cut up and ready to go, they’re easy to throw into containers and more likely to be eaten.

- There are lots of great “bento-box” type containers on Amazon and in stores like Walmart, Winners or Home Sense. This can help keep things separate and un-crushed plus are in tons of cute colours and patterns.

- Use a thermal lunch bag, ice pack or thermos to keep food at the right temperature.

- This year, personal hygiene is more important than ever before. Talk to your kids about the importance of not sharing their snacks with others and going over proper handwashing techniques. Also, having hand sanitizer readily available prior to mealtimes (ie. in a baggie in their lunch) will be crucial in keeping your kids safe and healthy!

If you’re feeling stuck, are concerned about the nutritional intake of your kiddos, or just want to talk about ways to make lunches more fun, book an appointment with Cheryl Corry, Registered Dietitian! Let’s get lunches off on the right foot this year!


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