As school is upon us, it’s important to think about school lunches and the best ways to make sure your child is healthy and robust for the school year.  For parents, it means stressing over planning school lunches that are healthy and that your child will eat and enjoy, getting them to the bus on time, and worrying about the colds and flus that are knocking at your doorstep.  Though it’s easy to put prepackaged foods into a lunchbox, with the tips below, you can make simple and easy to prepare lunches that with have your children going all afternoon and looking forward to their next lunch.

Here are a few tips you can follow to ensure your child is enjoying the most nutrient dense foods optimal for growth, brain function and overall wellness, while boosting their immune system in the process.

7 Tips for Lunches

  1. Invest in sturdy, reusable containers for less waste
  2. Get a good thermos and lunch size cooler or cooler bag to keep things hot and cold.  Make sure thermoses and water bottles are BPA free and stainless steel.  Be sure to remind your child of the importance of staying hydrated and drinking water throughout the day! Find out the top 5 BPA-free Water Bottles for kids.
  3. Let kids help plan their own lunches to be sure they will enjoy what’s in it
  4. Substitute Organic Sunbutter (from sunflower seeds) or Pumpkin seed butter if your child is in a nut free classroom (please ensure that seeds are allowed). They taste just as good, but are allergy friendly.
  5. Stay away from processed and pre-packaged foods.  Deli meats are a no-no.  Always opt for fresh meat, and nothing frozen.Pack a treat – Even if it’s bite-sized or an encouraging note or stickers. It’s hard work being gluten or dairy free, and eating healthy when other kids around you are eating chips and fruit roll ups.  Add dates and honey to gluten-free and dairy free cookie recipes for a nice snack.
  6. Talk to your child and child’s teacher/ school about food allergies that your child may have or about food allergies in his/her classroom… most schools are at least nut free, but there may be children with allergies to sesame, eggs or other foods. Remind kids not to trade any food with friends and not to try anything from anyone else and the importance of washing hands and being extremely careful about food allergies.

Delicious Substitutions

Gluten free?  Try the varieties of gluten-free breads and wraps for your child’s sandwiches.  As an alternative to a sandwich, leftover rice pasta is always a good option.   Dairy free? Try Coconut, Rice milk instead of Cow’s Milk.  You can even purchase Dairy free Yogurts made from Soy and Coconut.  With younger children, always try mixing their Cow’s Milk with the Substitute first, before weaning entirely off of the Cow’s Milk so they can adjust to the taste difference.  Nut/Peanut free?  Try Sunbutter  or other seed butters if you can’t use peanuts – seeds/ seed butters are also a great way to add protein and healthy fat to homemade snacks.  Sugar free? Try fresh fruit juices or adding water to a cranberry concentrate with honey.

Main meal ideas

  • Gluten free sandwich or pita with turkey, greens, and avocado
  • Leftover brown rice pasta with your choice of protein (beef, chicken, tofu) and tomato sauce with green peppers
  • Warm turkey or chicken stew
  • Chili with veggies and beans
  • Sweet potato and chicken breast
  • Bean salads.  Black beans with cucumber and corn are a kid favourite!
  • Quinoa salad. Be sure to include additional protein (chicken, pumpkin seeds etc) and your child’s favourite veggies!
  • Spinach or cucumber salad topped with apples and sunflower seeds

Snack Ideas

  • Vegetables, Mary’s crackers (contain sesame, be sure this is allowed in your child’s classroom) and hummus (contain sesame)
  • Vegetables, crackers and homemade guacamole
  • Apples and seed butter or goat cheddar
  • Boiled egg
  • A healthy Trail mix which could include some or all of the following: nut-free granola, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, goji berries, dried cranberries and blueberries, unsweetened coconut, raw cacao nibs.
  • Homemade gluten-free (or allowed grain) muffins or Sunbutter cookies (substitute coconut flour or gluten-free flour mix if desired)
  • Homemade gluten-free (or allowed grain) cookies with oats, seeds and dates.  Use coconut oil instead of butter.

Happy school year and happy eating!