Fun and nutritious school lunch and snack ideas

Making tasty and nutritious lunches for your school-age kids needn't be a chore.

Pitch the PB & J, and skip the pre-packaged lunch kits.

Making interesting, tasty, and nutritious lunches and snacks for your school-age kids needn’t be a chore if you have the right tools and a bit of creativity.

We asked our resident school lunch experts Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh of Sweet Potato Chronicles to help us pack stellar lunches for our little ones that will serve them well throughout the day. For starters, think beyond the sandwich. As long as you have good-quality containers, Marsh says, anything from soup, to pasta, to chili can be packed up and sent along.

Give yourself enough time for the task, Keogh adds.

“Preparation is a big factor. If you can muster the energy to pack lunches the night before, you’re likely to spend more time putting something different together,” she says. “You’re too time-pressed in the morning. Lunches can be anything. Hard-boiled eggs and fruit can be adapted to lunch.”

Many a parent has found their child’s lunchbox just as full after school as it was when they left in the morning. So what do you do when your kid isn’t eating what’s sent along with them?

“If children are in a lunch room packed with energetic kids of all ages, it can be overwhelming for them to focus on sitting quietly and eating,” Keogh notes. “Maybe tell your children they earn a special snack or treat if they make sure to eat their crudités or sandwich. A little incentive never hurt anyone. I also think it’s important to come to pick-up with a snack in hand in case they didn’t eat their lunch.”

Another reason your child may not be eating their lunch is because they simply don’t like what’s in there – that’s why it’s so important to include your child in the lunch selection and lunch-making process.

“Whenever you get kids involved in meal preparation you increase the odds that they’ll eat that meal,” Marsh notes. “But also, given how much time has to go toward lunch packing, it only makes sense to share that work with your kids. Depending on the age of your child, you could include them by giving them options to choose from or you could have them make their whole lunch.”

Some items are now verboten for health reasons – peanuts (including peanut butter) and other nuts are a big no-no due to the seriousness of nut allergies – but there are others you’ll want to avoid as a matter of common sense. Soft fruit bruises easily when clunking against books in a backpack, so stick to sturdier things like apples. And if you have younger children, avoid breakable glass bottles, hard-to-open containers, and anything requiring assembly.

“There are so many great lines of lunch packs and accessories out there these days,” Marsh explains. “If you’ve got a good thermos, containers that seal tight but open easily, and ice packs – don’t forget the ice packs! – then you’re able to be more creative in putting those lunches together.”

We asked Ceri and Laura to share a couple of their favourite recipes with us — be sure to try their ALT Sandwich (Avocado, Lettuce and Tomato) as well as their Grape Salsa.

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