3 Tips For a Healthy Back to School Lunch Routine

Healthy School Lunches

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It’s back to school time and, like January, back to school offers the perfect opportunity to start a new routine and create new healthy habits!

My kids have been in school full time now for a few years and each school year the morning madness does get a bit easier, in part because I hand out tasks and expect them to do much of their own school prep.

Set your kids up to help themselves with a kids’ shelf in the pantry that has all their cereal, bowls, spoons, and cups and have them prepare and eat breakfast on their own starting at age 3 or 4. Create a special place designated for forms, artwork, library books and assignments that come home from school, get the kids involved in choosing healthy snacks and even making their own school lunch.  If mornings are tight on time, have the kids pick out school clothes and pack backpacks the night before.

The more involved the kids are in their back to school routine, the easier mornings and night befores will be!

3 Tips to Create a Healthy Back to School Lunch Routine

Give the Kids Jobs

Kids are more than capable.  Sit down as a family and discuss what your expectations are for them individually i.e. getting dressed, brush hair, brush teeth, eat breakfast. Then discuss what needs to be done to contribute to the family getting to work and school on time, such as walking the dog, emptying the dishwasher and making school lunches.

Divide up tasks, making sure they are age appropriate.  If necessary, rotate jobs on a weekly or monthly basis for fairness, but ensure each family member knows what is expected of them to get out the door without tears or tantrums!

In our house, contribution to the school morning routine is not optional as all hands on deck gets everyone out the door on time. Expectations increase as the kids get older and the kids actually look forward to taking on a more challenging role. Here is what has worked for us so far:

Preschool – JK /SK – get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, make and eat breakfast

Grade 1 – Empty top rack of the dishwasher and put out vitamins

Grade 2 & 3 – Fill water bottles, milk containers and empty bottom rack of the dishwasher

Grade 4 & 5 – Snacks into snack containers, yogurt into yogurt containers

Grade 6 & up – Cutting up fruit, making the sandwiches and packing lunch bags

Assembly Line Lunch

Make the process of making lunch very easy.  Have a container for everything and same food items go into each container every morning.  Sandwich in the large rectangle containers, snacks in the small rectangle, cut up fruit in the large round containers and yogurt in the small round containers, with milk and water in their own bottles.

Create a list to choose from of everyone’s favorite sandwiches, fruits, yogurt, and snacks and ensure kids have easy access to foods they like and you approve of.   We add our own frozen berries to flavour the yogurt and always cut up the fruit taken to school so it is easier to eat and can be enjoyed over both snack breaks.  I see a lot of food waste at my kids school and I find sending my own milk and sliced fruit avoid extras being thrown away.

Some ideas from my kids:

  • Sandwich – nitrate free chicken or turkey slices, cheese, WOW Butter and apples, chicken wrap, homemade chicken fingers, pasta
  • Fruit – Apples, grapes, melon, ½ banana in peel, nectarines, orange
  • Yogurt – plain or vanilla greek yogurt with frozen raspberries, blueberries, mango or strawberries and a small container of granola for topping.
  • Filler Snacks – pretzels, rice crackers, rice cakes, raisons, dried apricots, dried cereal such as Shreddies, Mini Wheats or Cheerios

Home Baked Snacks

My kids take a filler snack like pretzels or dried cereal in case they are extra hungry that day, and also a homemade snack that provides fibre and nutrients from fruit and vegetables without the artificial ingredients, preservatives and added sugar of store bought snacks.

I wasn’t happy with the packaged, processed granola bars or muffin cookies available on store shelves so started baking healthy muffins, brownies, cookies and banana bread full of oats, flax, fruit, pureed vegetables and lots of chocolate chips.  Every 3 weeks I spend an evening baking and store in the freezer where the kids have easy access to choose their favorite for their school lunches.

Even if you don’t make it a regular habit, switching out store bought stacks for home made a few lunches a week will make a healthy difference!

Take this years back to school as an opportunity to set some new routines that add healthy habits to your mornings and your school lunches!

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