I found my first red leaf this week. If I’m being honest, I was a little indignant about the whole thing. I marched over to that tree and plucked it from the branch. I am not sure if it will actually help the summer weather stay a little longer, but at least I tried.

While I do love the summer warmth, if I am being honest, I will admit that I really do look forward to September and the routine that it brings. I have thoroughly enjoyed the summer with my family…well except for maybe last Tuesday…anyone else have kids who are getting a little unruly?  I am sensing that we all need to start seeing other people. We need the flow of day that routine brings with it. And, we need to do different things during the day so that we have something new to talk about around the table.

Along with this new routine, we will have lunches to pack once again. Oh, lunch drawer of dishes, I have not missed you but I am grateful for you.

As a mom, nutritionist and supply staff for our local school board, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t – what your kids actually eat and what they waste instead. With this in mind, I’d like to share a few of my best tips and tricks to help you get ready for September.

When thinking about lunch dishes, I like to try and streamline with larger dishes that can be divided into smaller compartments. One of my favourite ways to do this is by using silicone muffin liners in a larger container to hold little bits and pieces. Although glass dishes are my favourite way to store and transport food, they are not the most practical for taking to school. My school-ager gave me the business when I tucked one in his lunch bag. Apparently, it is a big no-no. I get it. Lesson learned.

Favourite Lunch Equipment

  • stainless steel dishes with a good seal
  • good quality plastic with latches to help keep the seal
  • easy to drink from water bottles
  • insulated food jars – in the morning fill the container with boiling water or raise the temperature of the container. Just before putting in the hot food, discard water.
  • cutlery – either from your regular cutlery drawer or a spork
  • freezer packs

Keep it Simple

Make a list of foods that your children like as a family. While it is important to stretch developing taste buds, send food to school that you are certain your child likes. For younger kids, make most of it bite-sized. I have seen kindergarten children with sandwiches as big as their head. Sorry, it isn’t going to get eaten. There are too many things to talk about and that sandwich looks overwhelming.

Start packing the lunch box the night before and avoid the crazy morning dash. Get the kids involved with age-appropriate jobs such as filling the water bottle, washing the grapes or making sure they have the needed cutlery.

Send water, not juice. Juice is not the same as eating whole fruit. Keep your children hydrated with water – pure, clean & fresh! It is just what the body needs to stay hydrated. Again, while supply teaching in kindergarten classrooms, I have seen kids dump their juice box rather than drink it. Did you know it is super fun to squeeze that box into the sink and watch what happens? In addition to your child making the juice box more of an experiment than hydration, it is also adding to the plastic straw garbage pile.

Now What to Pack?

Purchasing packaged items means you are often paying for unwanted chemicals, flavourings & colours. If you can’t pronounce or recognize the ingredients on a box – don’t buy it.

  • Whole-grain pita stuffed with lettuce, cucumber and tuna or salmon
  • Whole grain tortilla wrap with shredded carrots and egg salad
  • Leftover spaghetti and tomato or meat sauce in a thermos
  • Hummus with crackers, carrot and celery sticks
  • Smoothies! Chill your thermos with ice water before you add the smoothie to keep it cold until lunchtime. Tell your child to give it a gentle shake before they drink it up just in case it separates.
  • Pasta salad loaded with their favourite veggies. Toss in some leftover cut-up chicken or cheese for protein.
  • Homemade soup…chicken noodle, vegetable or minestrone.
  • Plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and honey. Flavoured yogurt is loaded with sugar and sometimes artificial flavours & colours. Add some nut-free granola on the side to sprinkle in and add a bit of crunch.
  • Pinwheel wraps. Spread regular cream cheese on whole grain tortilla shells. Next have your child choose which veggies they would like to add – shredded carrots, diced cucumbers, lettuce or peppers. Roll it up and slice into pinwheels.
  • Apple slices, make it interesting by mixing red & green apples as well as trying many different varieties. Try sprinkling with a little cinnamon for added flavour & nutrients.
  • Shredded cheese, salsa & guacamole with organic corn chips
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Whole-grain muffins

Happy Lunchtime to you and yours!