Pack a smarter lunch box for your children with these simple tips

Pack a smarter lunch box for your children with these simple tips

  • Healthy Eating

  • By Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietitian

    We’re halfway through the school year. Are your kids’ lunchboxes looking a little, well, stale? Lunchtime is critical refueling for children and eating a good lunch helps ensure they can focus the rest of the day. Thankfully, keeping children interested in their lunches doesn’t have to require endless work.

    When time is tight, it can be tempting to reach for the convenience foods on offer in the grocery store but they typically come packed with too much sugar, salt and white flour. With a few simple tips and tricks, you can streamline your efforts and ensure that your child’s healthy lunchbox actually gets eaten.

    1. Get kids involved.

    As parents, it is up to you to select the healthy menu but you can offer kids a few easy options. For example, let kids choose one of three vegetables to snack on or decide if they want a sandwich or wrap for your selected fillings. If children are old enough, have them slice up lunch veggies for the week each Sunday or make a weekly healthy baked good. Getting kids involved builds their ownership of the process and encourages healthy eating.

    2. Switch up the delivery without switching the menu.

    Be creative in how you deliver old favourites. For example, serve a typical banana and seed butter sandwich as ‘sushi’: slather a whole grain wrap in nut-free butter and roll up a whole banana, slice and serve with chopsticks. Or offer the usual sandwich fillings as an appetizer plate or build your own rice cake ‘pizzas’. Serve a yogurt parfait in a cute little jar or add a dip to the usual veggies and crackers.

    3. Follow this nutritious formula.

    Always provide 1-2 veggies, 1 fruit, 1 protein and 1 whole grain. The combinations are endless! Roasted chickpeas can add a crunchy snack to the meal or chickpeas can be mashed for a ‘tuna’ salad. Apples can be chopped into a yogurt parfait or sliced and dipped in sunbutter. Tomatoes can be sliced into sandwiches or cherry tomatoes offered as a ‘popable’ snack. Think ahead at the grocery store and buy a selection of each of these items so the kids can have some say over their lunch components.

    4. Don’t be afraid of the leftover.

    If your child loves tonight’s dinner, ask them if they’d like it for lunch. Then all you have to do is pack a snack and lunches are done before you’ve even done the dishes.

    5. Switch up at least one component per week.

    It can be easy to send out the same lunch day after day if kids will eat it but it will quickly lead to lunch burnout. If batch prep makes homemade lunches easier for you, just be sure to switch it up from week to week. If it’s chicken this week, made it mashed chickpeas next. If you pack a blueberry oat muffin right now, do whole grain banana bread next week. And if you are batch cooking, always make a double batch of freezeable items so you aren’t having to panic cook every Sunday night.


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    Desiree Nielsen Registered Dietitian
    About the author
    Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian, author and host of the vegetarian cooking sshow, The Urban Vegetarian. Desiree takes an evidence-based, integrative approach to her dietetics work, with a focus on anti-inflammatory, plant-centredcentered nutrition and digestive health.
    View all articles by Desiree Nielsen
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