Healthy Eating

Back to School: Your Guide to Healthy and Delicious Lunch Boxes for Kids!

Summer is coming to an end and it’s time for kids to head back to school. You know what that means…time to start packing school lunches. Does this sound like a daunting task to you? Are you feeling fresh out of lunch ideas for kids? Don’t sweat it—we’ve got you covered! Toss the soggy sandwiches and try these quick, simple and tasty lunch ideas.

Getting started

Before the first day of school, ensure you have these staple items to help make packing lunches simple and quick:

  • lunch bag (washable and insulated is best)
  • containers (compartmentalized work well)
  • thermos
  • ice pack
  • cutlery

Now, let’s discuss what to put inside the lunch bag!

Lunch box balance is key

Canada’s food guide encourages us to “Eat a variety of healthy foods each day.” To help fuel students through school days, choose a variety of the following key players:

Vegetables and Fruits

Whole Grains

Protein Foods

Mini cucumbers, tomatoes, snap peas, bell peppers, or carrots

Bread, pita, naan

Legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, or hummus)

Cooked vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, or frozen peas)

Pasta and rice

Dairy products (e.g. yogurt, cheese, kefir, or milk)

Leafy greens (e.g. kale, romaine, or leaf lettuce)

Oatmeal Tofu

Frozen fruit (e.g. berries, grapes, or pineapple)

Wraps Eggs

Fresh fruit (e.g. apple, orange, or pear)

Crackers Meat, poultry, fish

Unsweetened canned fruit

Homemade muffins Nuts and seeds

Don’t forget about snacks

Snacks can also be thought of as “mini-meals”and can benefit children who aren’t able to get all they need at meals! When packing snacks, include food from at least one of the three food categories: vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and protein foods.

Here are some quick and easy snack and lunch ideas to use this school year:

5 Snack Ideas

5 Lunch Ideas

Strawberries + cottage cheese Veggie and tofu stir-fry served over noodles + grapes
Mini cucumbers + hummus Leftover turkey and veggie stuffed pita + pear
Yogurt + homemade marvellous muffins Rice and curried lentils + cooked vegetables + orange
Whole grain cereal + milk Bento lunch box

Unsweetened fruit purée + pumpkin seeds

Whole grain crackers with cheese + apple + celery sticks

For additional kid-approved snack and lunch ideas perfect for school, check out our school lunch recipes or try these 12 Recipes to Get Back to School Ready.

How about drinks?

Canada’s food guide encourages us to drink water often. In addition to drinking water, the food guide also recommends other healthy drink options, including:

  • white milk (unsweetened lower fat milk)
  • unsweetened fortified soy beverage

If you are wondering how to implement these recommendations, opt for milk with meals and water in between.

Need lunch ideas for picky eaters? Get them involved!

Children are more interested in trying food they have helped prepare. Infact, Canada’s food guide encourages us all to cook more often! So get the whole family involved the next time you start cooking. Here are some steps to get you started:

  • Sit down with your kids for a brainstorming session on healthy snack and lunch ideas.
  • Take the kids to the grocery store and let them choose some of their favourite foods like vegetables, fruit, and yogurt.
  • Ask your kids to help assemble their lunches every night.

 For more tips on how to involve your kids in the kitchen, read Cooking is a Family Affair

Don’t forget food safety

  • Use a thermos for hot foods like soup or stew and cold foods like milk or smoothies.
  • Place a frozen yogurt container or ice pack in the lunch bag to help keep other foods cold.
  • Be sure to keep reusable containers clean by washing well with warm soapy water.
  • Keep lunches in the fridge overnight and don’t remove until your child is leaving for school.

Learn more about how to ensure your child’s lunches are food safe here

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About BC Dairy

BC Dairy is a not-for-profit organization representing BC’s dairy farmers.