Back to School Lunch Ideas

August 26, 2021

Planning school lunches can be a daunting task. Parents worry a lot about nutrition and ensuring their kids have enough to eat, yet there’s a small dagger of defeat that goes through you when you open the lunch kit at the end of the day and see most or all of that day’s meal still sitting there.

lunch containerThis school year, start planning to make some fun and exciting lunches that will disappear in the lunchroom—and have your kids asking for encores. Start your planning here and then find all the food, snack and treats you need at your local Calgary Co-op store. 

Hot & Cold Considerations
Hot foods can be tricky unless your child’s school has access to microwaves, and even then, there’s no guarantee that your child will get their food heated up, so best to stick to food that tastes great warm at best.  

Remember to package items with moisture separately from those that are dry. If you place a sandwich in the same container as potato chips, those chips will be sadly soft by lunchtime.

Meals that take a lot of preparation or put together at the table might also not go well with your child. They’re busy, talking to friends or otherwise distracted at lunch, so something quick and ready to eat is often a better plan.

lunch wrapMain Dish in the Lunchbox 
While a ham and cheese sandwich is quick and easy to put together, it might not be what your child is craving.  Wraps and pita pockets are a great way to change up the usual sandwich and make things a little healthier. Pick your child’s favourites like peanut butter and jam, chicken caesar, egg salad or Nutella and banana, and re-imagine them as a wrap. Bonus: you can likely sneak some veggies in there as well.

Try making a quesadilla, or grilled cheese will also travel well, as long as you don’t place it in a container until after it cools. If you’re making hamburger or mac and cheese, use a muffin tin and make burger mini muffins or mac and cheese bites.

If your child is a taco fan, try out soft tacos for lunch, or give them tortillas and their favorite ingredients so they can make their own at lunch. If they love pizza, you can put their favorite pizza toppings into a wrap with tomato sauce and melty cheese.

Sides & Snacks
We all love side dishes to provide variety and make up the food groups that aren’t in the main dish. With school lunches, you’re most likely looking at veggies or something with a different texture, maybe something crunchy.

Carrot slices and cucumber are good choices for veggies; they won’t wilt or get soggy during the day. Remember to keep veggies in separate containers or small snack bags to keep them crisp or moist. Bell pepper slices are also crunchy and provide a fun color boost to the meal. Celery sticks with Cheeze Whiz are also a reasonably healthy and yummy option (add some raisins for the retro-popular ‘ants on a log’), and they hold up well in a bag or Tupperware. 

If you’re looking for something with a bite to it, granola bars and crackers are an excellent go-to. Most granola bars these days are peanut-free and safe to bring to school. Or make your own trail mix with nuts and chocolate and dried fruit pieces.  

fruit cupDo Dessert Right
Desserts or treats are always welcome in school lunches; the trick is to find something that your kids will enjoy that’s also healthy enough for you to want to send. Throwing in a fun-sized chocolate bar is alright, as long as it doesn’t become the only thing you’re sending.

Fruit cups are a favourite; you can make them yourself with a small plastic container or pick them up at Co-op. Use those plastic containers for other types of fruit, like grapes or apple slices. If you’re adding something to dip the fruit in, like Nutella or caramel, be sure to send them in a separate container. Banana slices and Nutella is a delicious and somewhat healthy treat.

It won’t take long to establish a group of favourite lunches to send to school. Kids tend to be happy with eating the same foods on repeat more often than adults, but it’s never too early to start expanding their favourite food list.  

Remember to talk to your kids about their lunches, what they like, and what they don’t. It’s a noble idea to send the food you wish they’d eat, but it’s better to send the food they’ll finish.

Don’t forget to check out all the fun food and snack ideas at Co-op, and look for local options by seeking out the Best From The West label in-store.

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