HEALTH: Back to school lunches as easy as 1-2-3

Health Sep 13, 2013 at 4:12 pm

HEALTH-SCHOOL-LUNCHBy Kalaayan Garcia de Vera
Ask Your Holistic Nutritionist

Yes, I know I am a bit late on this post, but as we all know this first week of school is quite hectic for everyone, and there’s still many more weeks of school lunches to pack.  With week one now in the books, I must say it has been quite a change of pace from having the kids at home helping out with all the meals, to preparing something healthy yet fast for breakfasts to make sure they catch the school bus, with their lunches packed from the night before and having just enough time to prepare dinner while helping out with homework at the dining table, and then packing lunch for the next day all over again.  Does this sound familiar to any of you?  It’s the back to school reality that doesn’t need to be stressful as long as you prepare your meals ahead of time and make sure to cook that little bit extra for dinner to  provide left overs for next day’s lunch.

First, you must be well equipped with different sizes of re-usable containers to pack lunches and snacks in.  I have never been a sandwich for lunch type of person so I don’t expect my kids to be either, but packed lunches need to be ideal and it is all about the containers and how well they keep the lunch from spilling unto the rest of the contents of the schoolbag.

There are a lot of containers to choose from, and I have found a wonderful Bento Ware combination provided by Laptop lunches, this allows you to keep food separate yet all in one box.  This bento box idea can also be achieved by simply buying different size containers and rubber muffin liners to keep the food separate.

Second, an insulated lunch bag to keep lunches from spoiling, make sure to throw in a cold pack inside.  These bags are also from Laptop Lunches and are made to fit the Bento Ware.

A small thermos is also a necessity for those hot lunches especially during cold weather.  I have found them very useful when packing chillies and soups and pasta.

They come in a variety of sizes and colours but the most important feature should be how easily it can be opened by little hands, I suggest to have your child with you when buying one.

And last but not least, a re-usable water bottle.  A double insulated aluminium is great for keeping the drinks cool.
If you prefer plastic as it is lighter in weight, just make sure it is BPA free, although I prefer the glass bottles as they are easier to clean but may not be practical for little slippery hands.  I did however find some glass bottles with a rubber cover to protect them from breaking when dropped.

All the products pictured on this blog can be found at

Now that you are well equipped it’s time for food preparation.  I like to prepare 3 days in advance, that means 3 days worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners and snacks. “Why 3 days?” you might ask, well, when it comes to food preparation, thinking short term will save you time, money and most importantly less wasted, uneaten, soiled food.  Mind you I am a fan of cooking in bulk and freezing, for those last minute meals out of necessity but I would rather have fresh over frozen any day.  Fruits, vegetables, fish and meat can all be kept fresh for the 3 days, so no freezing required.  With my nutrition clients, it is a lot easier to plan the next 3 days because it is all about baby steps when starting to form habits.

Step 1. Plan 3 days worth of meals and snacks

Sit down and pull out your recipe books or family favourites, don’t be afraid of trying something new online,  make it a family affair and get the kids involved.  Let them have suggestions of what they want to eat, it doesn’t mean that it will be chicken fingers and fries every day but you can meet them half way.  Explain that they need to have balanced meals and a variety of fruits and vegetables, you can make homemade chicken fingers, baked sweet potato fries and add some roasted carrots, zucchini and red peppers to balance it off.  Fruits are great as a snack in between meals, I particularly love bananas as they are full of electrolytes and already come in their own container.  Once you have the meals and snacks planned write them on a calendar and put it on the fridge for all to see, this will make packing lunches a lot easier and the kids can even help out.

Step 2.  Make a grocery list..but most importantly stick to it!

I know this is the hard part, all the intentions are there when you go to the grocery store but once you step in it and see all the marketing wonders around you, it’s so easy to get distracted that picking up one sale item ends up becoming a cart full of things not on your list!  And if you only realize it once you’re lined up at the cash, well we all know that means, defeat and to most of us, no turning back since so much time has already been wasted.  So instead of wasting yours along with your family’s precious time in discussing and planning meals think twice before straying away from your list!
Step 3.  Unloading from the grocery store…yes, this is a crucial step so please don’t skip it.

When unloading your groceries, instead of just packing the fridge and the pantry and calling it a day, this is a great opportunity to start food prepping.  Wash all veggies and fruits, cut up some vegetables and pack them away in some containers, make some salads and fruit combinations and then pack them in the fridge.  This will save you a lot of time when packing lunches and snacks as this is easy for you and the kids to just grab and go.  Another reason I like to shop for just 3 days is that food maintains it’s freshness, and after 3 days I need to restock my produce as my kids go through them quickly.

Step 4.  Repeat steps 1-3 for the next 3 days

Some of my kid’s favourites when it comes to lunches are:

Chicken fajitas – instead of already rolling them up, give it to them in separate containers to put together.  I place fajitas, grated cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, chicken strips cooked in salsa, and guacamole all in separate containers.  The kids will enjoy assembling the fajitas themselves.

Mini Quiches – bake the quiche in a muffin tin and pack a couple for lunch with some salad on the side.

Chilli- this is a nice hot lunch packed in a thermos container, pack some garlic bread or croutons to add to the soup.

For snacks my kids love:

Fruit salads – wash and slice a combination of fresh fruits and pack in small containers, add a splash of lemon juice to keep the fruits like apples from turning brown.

Homemade granola bars – this is a great afternoon snack and can be made ahead and changed up just by switching the dried fruits in the ingredients.

Yogurt Parfait – layer some plain reek yogurt, fruits, and granola inside a thermos to keep cool for a nice dessert type treat.


(Kalayaan Garcia de Vera is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who graduated at the top of her class with honours at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.. As a member of the Canadian Holistic Association of Nutritionists Professionals, she has conducted weight loss studies and detoxification workshops. Her website is

(Ed: For information on how your digestion plays a very important part of your overall health and well-being book a complimentary nutrition assessment with our Registered Holistic Nutritionist< Kalayaan Garcia de Vera, RHN, by phone 416-995-6146 or e-mail: