School Lunches 101

by Bailey Green, Registered Dietitian on September 6, 2017

It’s back to school time! Cue upset kids and very relieved moms and dads.

When I was going to grade school, September meant two things.

  1. Begging for light up sneakers that my parents would always refuse to get me (They thought they were tacky, and they were right.)


  1. Having lunch made for me every day.

I LOVED having lunches made for me. I loved the surprise snacks, the loving notes, and my cool Winnie the Pooh thermos. My parents did not love making these lunches quite as much. I was picky, and often parts of the lunch would end up traded away, in the trash, or rotting at the bottom of my bag for an undisclosed amount of time.

According to what I hear from parents, packing meals is only getting more difficult. If it wasn’t hard enough figuring out what kids will actually eat, there seems to be more rules than ever surrounding what they can and cannot bring in their lunches. There are allergies, there are health rules, and there are good old fashioned picky eaters. To add fuel to the fire, last year horror stories started to surface of kids having their lunches thrown out if they weren’t deemed healthy enough.

Okay, yikes.

Luckily, packing lunches doesn’t have to be a dreadful task. Thanks to the internet, and input from lots of great moms and dads in my life, I’ve complied some of my favourite kid-approved back to school lunch ideas.


Sandwich Pinwheels (AKA. Sandwich Sushi)


Sandwiches are a great lunch, but kids tire of them pretty quickly. Lets be honest, sandwiches don’t inspire a lot of excitement. Never fear, the pinwheel is here! Simply swap out regular bread for a flatbread of your choice, lay your favourite ingredients on top, roll up, and slice! These bite sized colourful treats can be served with chopped veggies or fruits and are sure to be a hit! Use different sandwich fillings to make different colour combinations. As a bonus? This recipe is easy and kid friendly, meaning that they can help out with the prep!


Copycat Pizza “Lunchables”


As soon as I saw this idea, I fell in love. Growing up I always wanted those pre-packed, preservative filled lunches. Yum. Now I finally understand why my parents were so dead set against them every single shopping trip.

Make them easily at home by preparing a pizza crust and cutting it into small pieces after it’s been cooked. Place servings of the crust into ziplock bags. Take some shredded cheese of your choice and divide it into separate bags, then do the same with pizza sauce. When all the packages are complete, toss them in the freezer. Take them out in the morning, and they will be thawed and ready by lunch time! These are not only quick to make, but they will keep for a few weeks for a quick grab and go lunch!

Rainbow Fruit Skewers with Yogurt Dip

I’ll admit, it was hard for me to get excited about a bag of warm grapes and a bruised apple in my lunch.

Take those same fruits and throw them on a stick, and it’s a whole different ballgame. Throw in your kid’s favourite yogurt and some granola as a dipping sauce to complete the meal!


 Salad in a Jar


This is a great lunch for both kids and parents alike! These salads can be made far in advance, and allow for plenty of combinations so they don’t get boring!

To keep your salad tasty all day, follow the same prep pattern every time. Start with dressings and wet ingredients on the bottom, followed by hard veggies veggies (carrots, celery, red onion), soft veggies (tomato, avocado),  protein (eggs, chicken, and other meats), and top with greens and crunchy bits. When lunch comes, simply shake the jar and go!

Thermos Nachos


What kid doesn’t like nachos? Okay, what adult doesn’t like nachos… ? Unfortunately as most nacho connoisseurs know, they don’t necessarily travel very well. Change that by putting your thermos to use!

Place meat, beans, or chili (or any combo of the three) into a thermos to keep them warm all day. Send plain nacho chips or oven crisped pitas in a bag. Pack along some plain greek yogurt, salsa, and shredded cheese for dipping and toppings!

Bonus Tips

  • Use apps to find deals! I’m a big fan of the mobile app Flipp. It uses your postal code to scan flyers in your area to find the best deals in town on groceries! The best part? It checks online for coupons to save you even more. Score.
  • Don’t buy individually packaged snacks! Save money by buying things like pretzels and trail mixes in bulk and seal them into ziplock bags at home.
  • Pick one night every week to prep all snacks. Set them aside (and out of reach) for grab and go packing!
  • Pick up some divided containers to send lunch in. Picky eaters will love that the food is separated, and it allows you to cut costs on things like baggies, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil.
  • Frozen juice packs and water bottles can serve as ice packs all morning, and once melted can be had for lunch.
  • Grab some single wet wipes at the dollar store to send for easy clean up after lunch.

So go forth, and be a lunch time hero.

For questions pertaining to nutrition, contact Bailey at


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