Back to School Lunches
September is that time of year when most parents begin to panic about what to send their kids for lunch.
Here are some tips and pointers to help you and your child pack a healthy lunch that they’ll eat and not throw away.
• Be organized. The least frazzled parents are the ones that are the most organized.
• Get your kids involved in packing their lunches at an early age.
• Sit down and create a list with them. Get your child to write down the groceries you’ll need for the next week‘s lunches.
• Take them shopping with you, it may take a little longer at first, but it will be worth it in the long run.
• When you arrive home let them help put the groceries away.
• Get them to help pack their lunch. Let them make decisions on what they want that day, based on the list and supplies you bought together.
• Have all the packing and wrapping supplies handy and in one place – wax paper, baggies, small to medium plastic resealable containers, thermos, etc. all in the same drawer or cupboard.
• Pack only 100% juice or milk for lunches – no fruit cocktails, pop, or fruit beverages. You want the food your child is eating to contribute towards their health not their waistlines.
• Have cheese in the fridge – if all else fails – chunks of cheese and whole wheat crackers are a great lunch. Add some fruit and a carton of chocolate milk and lunch is ready to go.
• Kids love muffins – make a double batch of whole grain muffins (see recipe below) freeze them in 1’s or 2’s depending on the age of the child. When you are packing lunches at breakfast – pop them into their lunch kits – they will be thawed out by lunch.
• In the case of Grade 1-4’s make the muffins in mini muffin tins. Three mini muffins equal 1 regular muffin. Little kids get intimidated with large lunches – the 3 mini muffins, even though it’s the same as 1 regular, aren’t as daunting and will get eaten.
• Pack salads in a resealable container along with some beans and a small container of salad dressing. They add the dressing at lunch so the salad doesn’t get soggy.
• Pack “traders” – every kid likes to trade part of their lunch – pack an extra of one of the items your child wants to trade i.e. canned peaches, trans fat free granola bars, whole grain cookies (see recipe below), this way you know your child will be eating their healthy lunch.
• Rule of thumb about food safety – keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot – Freeze juice or milk packed in Tetra Pak packaging. I always pack 2 drinks, a frozen 100% juice in Tetra Pak packaging and a container of milk. The frozen juice keeps the entire lunch cold. My son drinks the milk at lunch and saves the frozen juice. The frozen juice thaws out by afternoon recess or the walk home and he gets a great cold drink as a snack.
• Make sure your child is meeting their calcium requirements.
Pack low fat milk or low fat chocolate milk packaged in Tetra Pak packaging
Age 4-8 they need 800 mg calcium
Age 9-18 they need 1300 mg calcium
• When you’re making supper and it’s something the kids love like spaghetti, ravioli, chili, or soup; make extra – these are great to pack in a thermos the next morning.
• When using a thermos, pour hot water into the thermos while the food is being reheated, pour out the hot water, and add the reheated food. This way the food will stay hotter longer.
• Snacks are an important way to add healthy foods to a child’s diet. Avoid empty calorie foods like pop, chips, chocolate bars. Choose foods that are rich in nutrients and provide healthy calories. Great choices – fruits and veggies, dairy products and whole grain breads, crackers and cereals.
• Keep veggies in the fridge chopped and ready to go – if it’s there and ready to eat there is a much better chance that they will eat it.
• Use low fat salad dressings as dips.
• Pack a mini snack bag of veggies and a small container of dip.
• For decedent treats choose foods that are made with low fat dairy products, whole grains, non-hydrogenated margarine and dried fruits.
Foods to have on hand to pull off a healthy lunch:
You’ll be able to pack a great lunch with a pantry that offers possibilities.
- Bread in the freezer – a loaf of bread will stay fresh for up to 2 months wrapped in the freezer. You can make the sandwich on the frozen bread. It will thaw by lunchtime.
- Muffins – make a double batch and freeze the rest in individual baggies.
- Whole Grain crackers
- Whole grain whole wheat English muffins – store in the freezer
- Yogurt – 175 g containers
- Cheese – cut into cubes to have ready to go
- Non Hydrogenated Margarine
- Eggs – hard cook and store for up to 4 days
- Canned Salmon, for sandwiches or salads
- Leftover cooked meat or poultry from the night before
- Canned beans – chickpeas are a great addition to a salad
- Nuts – only for adult lunches, no nut products at schools
- Peanut butter – only for adult lunches, no nut products at schools or try nut free Peabutter
- Baby Carrots
- Red, orange, or yellow peppers (whichever one your child will eat)
- Lettuce for sandwiches or salads
- Canned fruit – peaches, pineapple, mixed- whichever your child will eat
- Dried fruit – like raisins, apricots, cranberries
- Low Fat Ranch or whatever type your child likes – for dipping
- Granola bars – nut free
- Low fat puddings
- Small and medium sized resealable containers
- Small and medium baggies
- Chef’s Select 100% natural soy wax paper, compostable
- Thermos – for soups, leftovers from dinner
- Thermal Lunch kit
- 100% juice in Tetra Pak packaging frozen in the freezer to act as the cold source
- Milk in Tetra Pak packaging – chocolate or plain
Recipes for Back to School Lunches
Recipes from Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health and don’t forget the chocolate!
By: Mairlyn Smith PHEc and Liz Pearson RD
Makes – 8 – 2/3 cup (150 mL) servings
Pack a protein source like a hard cooked egg, some leftover cooked chicken or turkey, some whole grain crackers, and milk and you have a great packable lunch. Make the crisp the night before and have it for dessert just make sure you save enough for lunch the next day.
1 ½ cup (375 mL) large flake rolled oats
½ cup (125 mL) whole-wheat flour
½ cup (125 mL) dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) cinnamon
½ cup (125 mL) canola oil
6 cups (1.5 L) blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) quick cooking tapioca
1 tsp. (5 mL) cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Line an 8-inch square (2-L) baking pan, set aside.
2. In a medium bowl stir together the oats, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Using a large spoon mix in the canola oil until well combined. The mixture should look wet.
3. Place the berries into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the tapioca and cinnamon.
4. Pour topping over the berries. Press down lightly.
5. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until bubbly. If using frozen berries add 15-20 minutes longer.
6. Serve warm or cold. Will keep up to 2 days covered in the fridge.
Each serving contains
310 Calories, 16 g Total Fat, 1 g Sat Fat, 0 g Trans Fat, 10 mg Sodium, 46 g CHO, 7 g Fiber, 4 g Protein
Big Cooking Tip
Wet parchment paper? Are you kidding?
No. When you’re baking or roasting something in the oven; to help with clean up, thoroughly wet a piece of parchment paper. Squeeze out excess water and line your baking pan with it. You will never have to scrub out a casserole pan or baking dish again. Most excellent.
Why are there so many calories in your crisp?
To make a crispy topping using old fashioned oat flakes I used ½ cup (125 mL) of heart healthy canola oil. You can either do two things – One, make this with ¼ cup (50 mL) canola oil and reduce the grams of fat by half, or leave it as is and enjoy it on a day that was on the lower fat side, but remember heart healthy fats eaten in moderation are a good thing.
My Very Own Fast Food Berry Parfait
Makes – 1 – 1 ¾ cup (425 mL) serving
One of my all time favourite packable treats; I’ve been making this parfait for the past ten years. I put frozen berries in the bottom of a plastic container add the yogurt and then pack it in a thermal bag. At lunch time I add my homemade granola and voila my very own personal fast-food treat.
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen blueberries
½ cup (125 mL) low fat probiotic French vanilla yogurt or unsweetened probiotic plain yogurt
¼ cup (50 mL) granola, recipe follows
1. Place berries in a bowl, top with yogurt and granola, eat. You didn’t need instructions did you?
Each serving contains with Granola
320 Calories, 7 g Total Fat, 1 g Sat Fat, 0 g Trans Fat, 90 mg Sodium, 58 g CHO, 6 g Fibre, 10 g Protein
Crunchy Cinnamon Granola
Makes – 2 cups (500 mL)
Serves – 8- ¼ cup (50 mL) servings
In the late sixties my family took a trip to San Francisco where we had our very first hippy sighting. My parents, being parents, thought these long haired granola eating kids were just a bunch of tree huggers who wanted nothing more than to run naked and have wild sex, sounded pretty darned exciting to me.
1½ cup (375 mL) large flaked oats
¼ cup (50 mL) wheat germ
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) canola oil
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) honey
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) brown sugar
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) cinnamon
1 tsp. (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 F (180 C). Line a 9×13-inch (3.5 L) metal baking pan with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl mix together the oats and the wheat germ.
3. In a small microwaveable bowl mix together canola oil, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Heat at 80% in the microwave for 15 seconds. Pour over oat mixture. Toss well.
4. Pour mixture onto the parchment paper lined baking dish and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and stir. Return to oven and continue roasting for 10 minutes.
6. Remove and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Each serving contains
130 Calories, 5 g Total Fat, 0 g Sat Fat, 0 g Trans Fat, 0 mg Sodium, 21 g CHO, 2 g
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes – 40 cookies
1 serving = 2 cookies
Make these once a week, freeze for healthy cookies all week. Just take them out of the freezer in the morning, they will be thawed out by recess or lunch.
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted non hydrogenated margarine
½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar
¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
1 omega-3 egg
1 tsp. (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups (300 mL) whole wheat flour
½ tsp. (2 mL) baking soda
¼ cup (50 mL) chopped dark bittersweet chocolate or M&M;’s baking bits
1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl cream the non hydrogenated margarine. Beat in both sugars till fluffy.
3. Add the egg and vanilla, beat till fluffy.
4. Stir in the whole wheat flour, baking soda, and the chocolate chunks or M&M;‘s.
5. Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto the cookie sheet or use a mini scoop see page XX.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool slightly before removing them from the pan. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.
2 cookies contain
110 Calories, 6 g Total Fat, 0.6 g Sat Fat, 35 mg Sodium, 15 g CHO, 1 g Fiber, 1 g Protein
If you want crispy and sweet, add and ¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar and an extra ¼ cup (50 mL) whole wheat flour.
Whole Grain Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes – 12
Great with some cheese for a portable lunch. Add a milk and some fruit and you are good to go.
1 cup (250 mL) whole wheat flour
¾ cup (175 mL) wheat bran
¾ cup (175 mL) ground flaxseed
2 tbsp (30 mL) wheat germ
¼ cup (50 mL) chopped dark chocolate; M & M’s baking bits, or mini chocolate chips
1 ½ tsp (7 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
2 Tbsp (30 mL) cinnamon
1 ½ cups (375 mL) mashed banana, approx. 4 really ripe bananas
¾ cup (175 mL) dark brown sugar
¾ cup (175 mL) buttermilk
1 omega-3 egg
1. Preheat the oven to 400F° (200C°). Line a muffin tin with paper cup liners.
2. In a large bowl using a fork or a wire whisk mix together all the dry ingredients: whole wheat flour, wheat bran, flaxseed, wheat germ, chocolate, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
3. In a medium bowl beat together all the wet ingredients: mashed banana, brown sugar, buttermilk and egg. The mashed banana really needs to be mixed in well
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix till just combined.
5. Scoop into muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until done.
Each muffin contains
180 Calories, 5 g Total fat, 1 g Sat Fat, 0 Trans Fat, 170 mg Sodium, 36 g Carbs, 6 g Fiber, 5 g Protein
Kid Friendly Wrap
1 large whole wheat soft tortilla
2 larges leaves of leaf lettuce
1 ½ oz (50 g) cooked leftover, chicken, or turkey, or roast beef, chopped (basically whatever type of meat you had the night before)
2 tbsp (30 mL) low fat salad dressing, your child’s favourite most kids love Ranch, Italian, or Caesar
Lay 1 leaf of lettuce on top of the tortilla. Top with whatever protein you are using, pour on the salad dressing, lay the second leaf of lettuce on top, roll up tightly, and then wrap in plastic wrap. Can be prepared the night before.