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Back to school! Toss the soggy sandwiches and try these simple, healthy and tasty lunch ideas. click to tweet Twitter

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 that you have all of the equipment that you need to start packing, let’s discuss what to put inside the lunch bag!

Lunch Box Balance is Key

To help fuel students through the school days so that they have energy to learn and play, keep the following key players in the lunch box.

Vegetables & Fruit

(aim for at least two kinds)


(aim for at least half whole grains)

Protein-rich Foods

(aim for one from each category below)

Milk & Alternatives
Meat & Alternatives

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

Bread, pita, wraps Milk Meat, poultry, fish

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

Pasta and rice Yogurt Legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, hummus)

Leafy green salad (e.g. with kale, romaine, or leaf lettuce as the base)

Oatmeal Cottage cheese Tofu

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

Naan Kefir Eggs

Frozen fruit (e.g. berries)

Crackers Fortified soy beverage Nuts (if allowed at school)

Unsweetened canned fruit

Homemade muffins Powdered milk Seeds

What about snacks?

Snacks can also be thought of as “mini-meals”. Choose food from at least two of the four food categories listed above.

5 Snack Ideas

5 Lunch Ideas

Strawberries + Cottage cheese

Veggie and tofu stir-fry served over noodles + grapes

Mini cucumbers + hummus

Whole grain wrap with leftover roasted turkey, cheese and lettuce + pear

Kefir + homemade carrot muffin

Rice and curried lentils + cooked vegetables + orange

Whole grain cereal + yogurt

Bento lunch box

Unsweetened fruit purée + pumpkin seeds

Whole grain crackers with cheese + apple + celery sticks

Note: Opt for milk with meals and water in between.

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

Need Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters? Get Them Involved!

Children are more interested in trying food that they have helped prepare so get everyone in the family involved when making snacks and lunches.

  • 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 yogurts.
  • 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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