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  • Writer's pictureSarah Nantel


Welcome back to school! Do I hear a sigh of relief from the moms out there?! Other than the fact that you’re now stuck making the dreaded school lunch for the next 10 months. I have a grade 4’er and full day kindergartener this year, and frankly I welcome the once-a-week hot lunch program.

I’m guessing you don’t have ample time (or energy) to prepare amazing school lunches. But perhaps you’d like to avoid daily Lunchables, fruit gummies, goldfish and Bearpaws. Here is my recipe for spending 5 minutes, and still provide your children with healthy lunches, free of the extra waste, and money of most packaged foods.


We often think of snack foods as “junk” foods. But snacks don’t have to be a pack of cookies, chips or sugary granola bars. Try to include a protein choice (from the meat/alternative group or dairy group) to provide more sustained energy AND a fruit and veggie to keep your kid going.

I like to keep dried and freeze dried fruit on hand, in case I run out of the fresh stuff by the end of the week. And kids seem to like fruit and veggies cut up, as they’re more fun and easier to eat (think melon balls or apple slices). Having a batch-baked stock of homemade muffins or cookies is also super helpful when it comes to quickly putting together school lunches.

Here’s a few examples of balanced snacks:

  • Cottage cheese or yogurt topped with berries

  • Edamame beans and dried apricots

  • Veggie sticks and hummus dip

  • Apple slices and dried chickpeas


My favourite is leftovers. If it’s a hot item like spaghetti, chili, stir fry, or casserole, warm it up in the morning and place it in a thermos. Pizza, bean or pasta salad or sliced sausage slices are fine served cold (add a freezer pack to the lunch kit).

Or of course, the sandwich. I usually make peanut butter (or alternative like sunflower seed butter if you’re school is nut-free) and jam. Or cheese and pickles (sounds odd, but tastes good!). Egg salad or tuna salad are good too. Or try a wrap or pita with hummus, cucumber slices and cheese.

Bento-box style: This is more of a deconstructed meal, like cheese, crackers and a boiled egg. Or pita bread, hummus and turkey bites. Kids often prefer picking at these foods than eating a full sandwich.



It’s best to include water. If you include juice, make sure it’s 100% juice, instead of fruit “drinks,” pop and sports drinks. The latter supplies lots of sugar and extra calories with no nutrition. Milk is another choice, you can even find boxed milk that has been treated with Ultra-high temperature (UHT), so doesn’t require refrigeration, or individual boxes of soy or almond milk.


Make that school lunch in the evening, while you’re cleaning up from dinner. You’ll thank yourself the next morning, when you’re struggling to get everyone on of the door or sneak in and extra minute of shut-eye!

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