Now that September is here, what do you pack for your children’s back-to-school lunches? Are you in need of some back-to-school lunch ideas?
I am extremely mindful of what goes into our daughter’s lunches. I want to make sure she’s getting a healthy, hearty lunch, complete with vegetables, fruit, protein, and everything a growing child needs. I also want to make sure to take into consideration those around her. With food allergies, it’s extremely important to make sure we do not send anything that may cause an allergic reaction in students or staff with life-threatening food allergies.
Though Little One loves peanut butter and honey on toast, I do not let her eat it on school days. She can only have her favourite combo on weekends. She is not much of a bread-eater, so finding a combo that she loves and will eat was a challenge. Despite her love of peanut butter and honey on toast, it’s weekends only because I know that the oils from the peanuts can transfer and the smell of peanut butter in her mouth can also trigger an allergic reaction in someone with a severe peanut allergy.
She is fine with having peanut butter and honey on toast on weekends.
A friend in Southern Ontario was telling me that at her child’s school they have been asked to not include nuts, eggs, berries, coconut, fish, seafood and certain vegetables because a student is allergic to all of those. Some parents have resorted to sending packaged/boxed “food” in their children’s lunches, just to be on the safe side. There was concern that berries are some of the only healthy foods that some kids will eat and to take that away left limited options. For kids who do not eat meat, they cannot supplement their diets with nuts — and, understandably so. Having worked with kids with severe food allergies, I know how quickly a reaction can come on. Administering an Epi-pen is not a fun thing to do either.
What to pack in your kids’ back-to-school lunches then?
I tend to avoid sending Little One with a lot of packaged products. Even Little One tells me, “Mama, do you know that FOOD is vegetables, fruit, meat, and things that you can EAT? I don’t like too much sugar or junk food. Junk food is not food.”
Hey, I can’t make things like that up. Out of the mouths of babes.
Here are some back-to-school lunch ideas:
(Left to right) Some of Little One’s favourite back-to-school lunch ideas:
- Honey and cheese sandwich, cucumber, carrots, nori, deviled eggs, blueberries, applesauce, probiotic kids’ drink and Thermos filled with water and splash of lemon
- Vietnamese vegetable wraps/fresh spring rolls (in rice paper wrapper) with tofu, cucumber, strawberries, blueberries, Thermos filled with water and splash of lemon
- Carrots, cherries, strawberries, Singapore noodles, little chocolate-filled biscuits for a treat, Thermos filled with water
- Carrots, pickles, orange wedges, watermelon, veggie and roasted chicken wrap, Thermos filled with water
- Cucumber, yellow pepper, cantaloupe, grapes, homemade pizza bites, bottle of water, yogurt
- Grapes, cheese, cucumber, rice with roasted chicken, little chocolate-filled biscuits for a treat, bottle of water, yogurt
- Pear wedges, carrot, celery, homemade mini mac ‘n cheese cups, chocolate biscuit, yogurt, water
- Apple, grapes, cucumber, orange pepper, rice and BBQ beef and pork, water, yogurt
- Apple, grapes, cucumber and red pepper salad, Kolbasa, cheese, bread, mini cookie, water
- Cucumber, clementine, turkey sandwich, dried cranberries, homemade apple crumble, yogurt, water with splash of lemon
- Celery, carrots, grapes, clementine, bunny bun sandwich (turkey, bacon, veg), yogurt, water
- Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, leftover Shepherd’s Pie, applesauce, water **Yes, my child likes COLD leftovers and insists I send her to school with cold food**
- Mini Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese cup, cheese, grapes, broccoli, homemade apple muffin, yogurt, water with splash of lemon
- Orange wedges, broccoli, chicken and vegetable stir-fry with rice, strawberries, yogurt, water
- Orange wedges, celery, pineapple, dried cranberries, lettuce, deviled eggs, mini cheese sandwich, water
- Red and orange peppers, boiled egg, mini cheese sandwiches, pineapple, strawberries, grapes, applesauce, water
Back-to-School Lunch-Packing Tips:
- Use containers that your kids can open on their own
- Label all their litterless lunch items (lunchbox, containers, water bottle, reusable cutlery, cloth napkins, cold/ice pack, etc)
- Make sure to include LOTS of colour! Get your kids to “eat a rainbow” by packing fruits and vegetables of all the colours of the rainbow
- Get your kids to help make their lunches! If they’re old enough, get them to make their own lunches! My 5 year old has been helping me make her lunches since she was in JK. Trust me…this isn’t all me! She’s been my little sous chef and loves “plating” her food.
- Make use of leftovers! To be honest, I do not spend a lot of time making Little One’s lunches. They’re usually just leftovers from supper…only fancied up a bit!
- Put an ice pack in your child’s lunchbox for all the food that needs to be kept cool (like yogurt and cheese)!
- Pack food that doesn’t need to be re-heated. Not all schools let kids use the school microwave to warm up their dishes. We don’t have that issue, since Little One actually LIKES her food cold. She loves cold pasta, cold pizza, etc. I know…weird?!
- Always pack a bottle of water. Little One has a Thermos filled with water with her every day. Just water. I actually do not give her juice in her lunch. If we’re at a party or social gathering, she can have a bit, but I don’t make it a habit of sending juice with her every day. She can get the vitamins and fibre from actual fruit. She really doesn’t need the extra sugar.
- Reusable cloth napkins are great for wiping sticky hands or using as a placemat.
Some favourite products we use for Little One’s litterless lunches:
- Mabel’s Labels
- Laptop Lunches Bento-Ware
- Funkins reusable cloth napkins
- Today I Ate a Rainbow
- Thermos FUNtainer
- Lunchbox Love notes
*This is NOT a sponsored post. These are items I use for my family and wanted to share.
Victoria Ess says
Carrots and hummus are a staple. Sandwiches are also a classic!
Amy Heffernan says
Great tips. I LOVE to use leftover for their lunches AND it is SO important to make it colorful!!
kelly young says
some really great ideas christine love them all thank you
Thanks, Kelly! 🙂
Thanks for the tips, its definitely appreciated. Two weeks in and Im running out of ideas!
JaimeEM, I’ve found that everyday lunches can be spruced up with colourful silicone cups to put things in and a few bento accessories like cute picks or some decorative eye balls! LOL!
seham merzib says
Jenn E says
Wow, your little one has the right mindset (“junk food is not food”)! I wish my little one knew that too! I think it’s so important for kids to understand that – the younger the better! I always have to pack a treat for my kid but I’m hoping to slowly get him to choose healthy /real food over snacks. These are great lunch ideas by the way – definitely will be referring back to this blog post… once our teacher strike is over (Sigh, we live in BC).
Thanks, Jenn E! Admittedly, I sometimes put a tiny treat in Little One’s lunch too. A tiny cookie or a few chocolate chips. Not too much. Just enough for a treat.
Some really great ideas – thanks so much for sharing!
You’re welcome, Lee-Ann! Little One and I have fun making her lunches!
Anne Taylor says
A great list for my grandkids! I’m going to pass this post on to my daughters! Thanks so much!
heidi c. says
I definitely need to invest in a couple of beautiful bento boxes like the ones you feature. They are so practical!
Heidi, the options are limitless! LO and I make a different bento creation each day! It seriously takes no more than 5 min to make!
Judy Cowan says
Do you want to come make my lunches? lol. All the lunches look great, thanks for the ideas!
Judy, for sure 😉 xo lol
Renee @ My So-Called Mommy Life says
What creative lunches, Christine! My little girl is going to JK next year so I’ll have to keep this post handy for when I need some inspiration next year! Also, I love that she loves water with a splash a lemon 🙂
Renee! Thank you for your awesome comment 🙂 Totally made my night! I think the water with a splash of lemon is cute too! She also loves San Pellegrino water, but no fizzy water for school! 😉
La Cuisine d'Helene says
So many great ideas Christine. I want one of these lunches 🙂
Merci, Helene! 🙂 I love making lunches for my loved ones. I just need to learn how to take amazing photos like yours though!
Our Family World says
Wow, can I come over and eat all of these! Those are great ideas and very creative. Definitely color entices children to eat
Thanks, Our Family World! I agree. Bright colours are very appealing. I’ve also told Little One that food monochromatic in the beige and white shades are not the best. She knows to eat a variety of brightly coloured fruits and veg!
Suzanne Rudge (MapleMouseMama) says
“As God is my witness I will never go hungry again!” Fabulous collection of ideas Christine, thank you!
LOL! Thanks so much, Suzanne! You made my day! xoxo
Suzanne Rudge says
I swear you made mine Christine, LOL. I despise making lunches, they are the bane of my existence. Not sure why, but they are sadly. You are a life saver with these ideas!
Can I pay you to make lunches for me? Your lunches are so creative! I HATE making lunches! My kids are so picky and never want what I buy! By the time the fruit I have is desired it is spoiled!
Awwww! That’s no fun, Jenn 🙁 How about getting your kids to pick what they want/will eat (as long as it’s reasonable…and preferably healthy! LOL!) and get them to help you make their lunches? Little One loves helping in the kitchen and she helps make her meals and lunches. That way, if she makes it, she’ll eat it!
Randa @ TBK says
These are all perfect for my son’s pre-school/day care lunches! Thank you so much for the inspiration and ideas.
Can you come be my mom?
Or more like sister 🙂
Haha! Randa, have I told you lately that I love you?! LOL! xo