School Lunches Made Simple: So Easy, Kids Can Make Them

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Back to school means back to school lunches and while most of us welcome getting kids back to a school routine, we grumble about lunch making almost immediately!

My brilliant idea to avoid school lunch boredom is to get the kids involved in making their own school lunches! To do this I created a very simple system that they can handle and guarantees healthy lunches with lots of variety to make sure all 3 kids are happy and well fed while at school.

 

5 Container System for Healthy School Lunches

You can buy the fancy multi container lunch systems or you can use any shape or size containers that fit in this school lunch bag and create your own. The key is to have a specific container for each food group and to teach the kids what goes in which container.

To ensure my kids get a variety of healthy foods and make it easy for them to prepare their own lunches on school mornings, we designated 5 different sized containers and a specific food group that goes in each.

Container 1 – sandwich, hot meal in foil or thermos
Container 2 – sliced fruit/vegetables
Container 3 – yogurt/dairy with berries
Container 4 – grains – homemade snacks
Container 5 – extra snack – pretzels, dry cereal

Combine the containers with a checklist of options that go into each container and a stocked fridge and pantry and you have the perfect recipe for healthy school lunches the kids can help prepare!

Container 1 – Sandwich /Thermos (Grains and Protein)
The sandwich container doesn’t just have to hold a sandwich. Make an extra batch of oatmeal pancakes or French toast on the weekend and freeze the leftovers so the kids can toast up, wrap in tin foil and slip in their sandwich container on school mornings. Mix it up by replacing whole grain bread with whole grain crackers or a wrap with nitrate free meat slices and send hot meals on cold days such as ravioli, stew or left over homemade chicken fingers. The goal of this container is to provide grains and protein.

Made fresh:
Whole grain bread with turkey, chicken or ham slices
Tuna on whole grain English muffin
Hard boiled egg and pita chips
Kielbasa, whole grain crackers and cheese cubes
Whole grain bagel, cream cheese and cucumber or fruit jam
Grilled cheese on whole grain bread
WOW butter or seed spread, banana in a wrap

From the Freezer & Heated
Whole Grain French toast
Whole Wheat Waffles
Oatmeal Pancakes
Homemade Chicken Fingers
Homemade Mac n Cheese
Chicken Quesadilla
Meatball mini sub
Homemade Pizza
Ravioli and sauce

Container 2 – Fruit/Vegetables
Full of antioxidants and vitamins, a colourful variety of fruits and vegetables should be a part of every lunch box. They may not love all of them, but repeated exposure may encourage them to try something new. Have kids pick two or three from this list per week that way they get some variety and you only buy what they will eat for the week.

Strawberries
Banana
Melon
Apples
Grapes
Orange slices
Mango
Blueberries or raspberries
Cucumber
Carrots
Celery
Cherry tomatoes
Red pepper slices
Broccoli

Container 3 – Yogurt (Diary)
Yogurt, yogurt based dips, milk based puddings and protein filled spreads can fill this container for something a little different. Calcium is the goal but substituting apple sauce or hummus still provides healthy options.

Greek yogurt with frozen berries
Cottage cheese with fruit
Homemade pudding
Hummus for dipping veggies
Cheese cubes
Apple sauce

Container 4 – Baked Snacks (Grains, Fruit)
Full of fibre and protein, providing snacks made with whole grain and real fruit everyday gives kids an energy boost that is healthy and not just a sugar fix. Make your own whole grain snacks from the list below or carefully choose those low in saturated fat, artificial flavours, colours, preservatives and added sugar from grocery store shelves.  Homemade is healthier, so try to get the kids involved in baking one weekend and store in the freezer – easy to pack in lunches on school mornings.

Spinach Brownies
Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins
Chocolate Oatmeal Zucchini Cookies
Nut Free Chocolate Power Balls
Oatmeal Banana bread

Container 5 – Extra Snacks
 (Grains)
This snack container is used as an ‘extra’ if they are super hungry that day or as a treat if we happen to have any hanging around. Most of the time it is filled with healthy options such as dried cereal or low fat snacks, but sometimes a chocolate sneaks in there!

Whole grain crackers
Whole grain pretzels
Rice Crackers
Shreddies/cheerios/ low sugar cereal
Roasted Chickpeas or Edamame Beans
Granola
Popcorn

Sit with your kids and make up your own list of all their favourites and pick out the perfect sized container for each. Print it out in a chart or on fun paper and hang inside a kitchen cupboard so the kids can reference the list when making school lunches.  In no time it will become routine and the kids will be kicking you out of the kitchen, more than capable of making their school lunches themselves!