Back-to-school season presents a challenge to parents: how to keep lunches creative week after week. While it takes some imagination and preparation, packing a school lunch that’s both nutritious and appealing to kids is not impossible. Here are some ideas that will earn you top marks — and have kids coming home with empty lunch bags.
Think in terms of food groups
A balanced lunch will have at least three of the four groups included:
- Vegetables and fruit
- Grain products
- Milk and alternatives
- Meat and alternatives
Canada’s Food Guide outlines what’s included in each group, so you can mix and match selections depending on what your child enjoys.
It’s all about presentation when it comes to kids’ lunches. Here’s how to give them a surprise every time.
Use cookie cutters, melon ballers or a ridged knife to cut sandwiches, fruits and veggies. Need help getting started? Check out our videos on how to cube and slice a watermelon or how to cut a mango for inspiration.
Use a bento box to separate foods (great for picky eaters) to help kids visualize the components of a balanced lunch. Silicone or paper cupcake liners can be used in containers without compartments.
Pick a colour for each day of the week and let it define the contents. Here’s an example: If the colour is green, stuff ingredients into a green tortilla with green beans or edamame on the side, and add grapes or slices of honeydew melon for a snack.
Let your child’s favourite characters rule the lunch bag, whether from TV, movies or books. Make a superhero–inspired lunch with a sandwich cut into a star shape, with cherry tomatoes on the side and blueberries for dessert.
Skewers are a fun and playful way to present sandwiches and chopped fruit and veggies. Skewers are your kids to help — they will have fun turning their food into stick figures and making one-of-a-kind skewer creations. Tip: Use coffee stir sticks or lollipop sticks instead of pointed skewers to prevent injuries.
Think beyond sushi-style rolls. Wraps are visually pleasing when cut into pinwheels, and cold rolls are always a hit.
Sneak in Wholesome Snacks
Give kids what they want – with a twist! Make homemade snacks using better-for-you ingredients like fruits and veggies.
- No Cook Fruit & Oat Bars
- Baked Falafel Snack Bites
- Coconut Popcorn
- Crunchy Granola & Seed Cookies
- Cajun-Spiced Kale Chips
Pack It Right
- Simplicity is key. Too many choices can mean extra packing time for parents and too many flavours can be unappetizing for kids.
- Frozen drink boxes keep foods cool and are thawed by lunchtime.
- Include a surprise. It could be a joke written on a napkin, a note or a picture of one of your kids’ favourite TV or movie characters.
- Take cues from your kids. Notice what they enjoy at dinner or on weekends and add those items to their lunches.
- Get the kids involved in making and packing their own lunches. It will give them something to look forward to and feel proud of, plus it will help them develop a good relationship with food in the future when they’re ready to make their lunches by themselves.