Health and Wellness, Parenting, Recipes

Packing Healthy Lunches with Your Family

A dad and daughter packing a healthy lunch in a green reusable container.

One of the most relatable parent experiences is the difficulty of preparing healthy lunches that are quick to prepare and that your children will actually eat. Searching for lunch ideas on Google often brings up results that are completely unrealistic.  We’ve compiled a list of lunch packing tips for busy parents!

A mom and daughter cooking pasta together over the stove.

One of the best ways to get your kids excited about eating their lunch is to get them involved in the decision-making process. Kids are more likely to eat their lunches if they are involved in making it. Letting your kids learn to cook teaches them important life lessons and builds their self-confidence and independence skills. According to an article from CookingLight, you may want to start introducing children to packing their own lunches in grades 1-3.

This next tip comes straight from child nutritionist Aviva Allen. In our Preparing Healthy Lunches Workshop last year, Aviva recommended making a list with your child that includes options for protein, carbohydrates, fruits and veggies. When it comes time to make lunches, your child can select what they would like from the list. There are many variations on this tactic across the internet, including making snack bins or a recipe binder. If you don’t have time for fancy DIYing, a simple printout list kept on the fridge works just as well!

Try to make the lunches and snacks you pack kid friendly! Sometimes kids can struggle to open their containers. According to a video on CBC Parents from Registered Dietician (and mom) Sarah Remmer, it’s important to test out containers before you send them off to school. Sarah also recommends keeping hot and cool foods at the right temperature. Try filling up your thermos with warm water to heat up the container before adding your food! Remember, kids are given a very limited amount of time to eat their lunches and can spend much of it talking to friends, so try to pack things that can be eaten in quick bites: more ideas on this below.

A child holding up sliced cucumbers over his eyes.

A Few Lunchtime Ideas

While sandwiches can be an excellent lunch idea, they can sometimes be redundant and may not be enjoyable for all kids. If you do decide to do sandwiches you could try to use cookie cutters to make them into fun shapes. In terms of sandwich alternatives, bite-sized, bento-style lunches are super popular among many kids, and are easy to prepare too! Some ideas for this include DIY Healthy ‘Lunchables’ or these no cook healthy lunch box ideas. Another idea that can help to change up your set list is having breakfast for lunch, especially since smoothies are a great opportunity to sneak some veggies into your child’s diet.

A good option for busy parents is to dip your toe into the world of meal prepping. There are lots of recipes and ideas out there for meal-prep friendly lunches and snacks. One popular hack is to make a big batch of something and then freeze it in portions to use later. This makes the food last longer, and ensures you always have something on hand for your hungry little ones. If you don’t have time to meal prep, you can always make a larger batch of whatever you are having for dinner and use it in your family’s lunches the next day. This is a trick that my partner and I are super fond of, since preparing a extra few servings is an easy way to have food for the next day. To avoid doing lots of crazy math, there are plenty of Baking Calculator websites and Recipe Manager apps available to adjust the ingredients list to fit your desired number of portions.

With these few simple tips, it is possible to turn lunch-making from a chore into a family activity. If you would like more information on preparing healthy lunches, be sure to register for our upcoming Preparing Healthy Lunches and Snacks workshop with kid’s nutritionist Aviva Allen on Thursday, September 19 from 12:00 – 1:30 pm. Let us know in the comments below which tip is your favourite or if you have suggestions of your own. Happy prepping!

Emily Pritchard

Emily is currently completing her undergraduate degree with a specialist in Criminology and a minor in Sociology. She plans to pursue a career in social work, with a focus on working with children and youth. When not studying or working at the Family Care Office, she spends her time reading the latest books and trying out new recipes. So, that’s Emily in a nutshell, reading, writing and cooking. Quite the picture, I’m sure!

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