School lunches are hard. You are trying to get everyone out the door. You want your child to have a nutritious lunch and one he will actually eat. These suggestions have been kid-tested. They can all be made ahead to avoid that crazy last-minute rush. Hot items can be made ahead and nuked for the thermos while kids are eating breakfast.
Most of the items were cooked with kids. This provides kid ownership and some choice in lunch selection. It is also enriching time for measurement, shapes and good discussion!
These make great breakfast, snack and lunch items and ensure your child is getting dairy items.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. non salt seasoning
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (125 ml) smoked ham or pepperoni, chopped
1 tsp. basil
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease muffin tins or use muffin cups. Mix dry ingredients. Add milk, egg, butter and stir to combine. Fold in cheese, meat and basil. Bake in 12 muffin cups for 25-30 minutes until center springs back when touched.
Cool soup in more ways than one! This soup is easy to carry in a thermos or a plastic container with a cool pack lunch bag. It uses leftover vegetables and ensure your child gets dairy requirements.
2 cups well-cooked vegetables (leftovers work great too!)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) plain yogurt
Seasoning of choice—depending on the vegetables I add non-salt seasoning, pepper, garlic, cinnamon and/or coriander.
Creative Lunch Salads
Zesty Pistachio Salad
This salad carries well in an insulated lunch bag. It contains cheese, nuts and vegetables for daily requirements of dairy, vegetables and protein.
5 oz. Mozzarella cheese
2 T. pesto
1 T. balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
8 raisin tomatoes, cut in half
8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 small orange tomatoes, stemmed and sliced about 1/2 cm thick
4 zebra tomatoes, stemmed and quartered (optional)
1/2 cup pistachios, skinned and toasted
Mix pesto with olive oil. Whisk. Slice Mozzarella in 8 equal portions and set aside. Pour the basil oil on top, making sure that it covers all the slices. Season with the pepper only. Marinate Mozzarella for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Roast the pistachios in a 350 °F (180 °C) oven for 10 minutes or until they turn slightly brown in color.
Arrange tomatoes in the center of the container. Place a slice of Mozzarella on top of tomatoes. Repeat previous steps, stacking tomatoes and another slice of cheese ending with tomatoes. Sprinkle with the pistachios. Drizzle with dressing.
Garnish with a sprig of basil. Serve with focaccia bread.
Carrot, Raisin & Pineapple Salad
2 cups carrots, grated
1 small can pineapple tidbits, drained
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup mayonnaise or whipped salad dressing.
Combine ingredients. Pack in individual containers.
Tomato, Pasta & Cheese Salad
8 oz. of your children’s favorite cooked pasta
4 large ripe tomatoes, diced
4 ounces favorite cheese, diced
4 T. Italian dressing
In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, tomatoes, cheese and salad dressing. Add cooked pasta. Toss and divide into lunch portions. Garnish each container with Parmesan cheese.
Tomato & Corn Salad
1 large tomato, diced
3 T. black beans
3 T. frozen corn
2 T. salsa
Toss and pack in a single portion container.
Getting Creative with Sandwiches
Scrambled Quesadillas to Go
Eggs, dairy, vegetables and whole wheat bread. It doesn’t get any better. (This also makes a great school breakfast dish!)
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp. butter
1/2 sweet green pepper, diced
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped smoked ham or chicken or turkey
1 cup shredded Canadian Monterey Jack, Brick or
4 large whole wheat flour tortillas
In a bowl, whisk eggs until blended. Add milk and seasonings.
Sauté vegetables and meat in butter on medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Pour in egg mixture and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Lay out tortillas on a work surface. Sprinkle half of the cheese on one half of each tortilla. Spoon egg mixture on top of cheese. Top with remaining cheese. Fold tortilla over to make a half moon. Return skillet to medium heat. Cook quesadillas in batches, for 1 to 2 min per side or until tortillas are toasted. Can be kept warm in insulated lunch bag or eaten cold.
These cute sandwiches will make your child the envy of his class. Dairy, fish and vegetables as well as breads are included in this tuna with a twist sandwich.
1 slice white bread, buttered
1 slice whole wheat bread, buttered
1/3 cup drained flaked tuna
¼ c. chopped celery
3 T. chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
1 ½ T. mayonnaise
2 slices Gouda cheese
Use a cookie cutter to cut out the same shape from both slices of bread. Switch the cut-outs. I use a fish shape but a flower or a heart work too. Mix tuna, celery, olives and mayonnaise.
Layer bread, 1 slice of Canadian Gouda cheese, lettuce, tuna, second slice of cheese and bread. Pack in a sandwich container or a zip lock bag. Include celery and carrot sticks and broccoli and cauliflower florets as garnish.
Go Mexican by wrapping up some grilled chicken with black beans and spiced rice, topped with grated cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream. If your kids like tacos, make them transportable by opting for soft tortillas over hard shells.
If your child is a veggie lover make a wrap using grilled zucchini, red and green peppers, eggplant and sweet onions. Spread the wrap with goat cheese, add a little salsa or chutney and top with vegetables. .
Chicken Caesar Wrap
Make up your favorite Caesar salad and put it in a soft tortilla wrap along with strips of sliced grilled chicken.
Roast Beef Wrap
Layer thin slices of roast beef on a flour tortilla. Spread with mayo and top with lettuce and tomato.
Or if your child likes to keep things simple what about spreading refried beans on a soft tortilla? Sprinkle with shredded cheese and wrap up.
Lunch in a Pita
It’s fast. It uses what is in the fridge and kids can make their own the night before!
Whip up wrap with whatever’s handy : cheese, veggies, meat or fish. Roll it up in a whole wheat pita or soft tortilla. Try these tasty filling ideas:
• Slices of Canadian Swiss cheese and chicken salad made with chicken cubes, celery, red pepper, lettuce and sour cream.
• Slices of Canadian Mozzarella, salami, grilled red pepper, lettuce and mustard.
• Slices of Canadian Cheddar, tuna salad, red and green peppers, lettuce and plain yogurt.
Smoked Turkey with Havarti
This quick to make wrap combines vegetables, protein and dairy. Let kids build their own!
2 T. mayonnaise
2 tsp. (10 ml) old-fashioned mustard
12 thin slices smoked turkey
3 T. apple jelly
6 oz. Havarti, cut into 12 sticks
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup (125 ml) julienned cucumber and/or zucchini
1/2 cup (125 ml) julienned celery, turnip, and/or peppers
Mix mustard and mayonnaise.
Lay turkey slices flat on work surface.
Coat cheese sticks with jelly and place one on each turkey slice.
Add a stripe of mustard mix and some of the vegetables and pepper generously.
Roll snugly to hold all ingredients together.
Cut in two or into bite-sized rounds held with toothpicks and place cut-side up in a snap top container.
Hot Lunch Alternatives
Whatever did we do before thermos containers? We love the open-mouthed ones that are like a soup bowl. Hint: pre-warm with hot water and don’t forget to send a spoon!
Chili Corn Soup
1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 can diced tomatoes including liquid
1 cup chicken broth
1 can corn, including liquid
1 can kidney beans including liquid
In a large saucepan, sauté onion in the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chili powder, garlic powder and oregano. Cook for another 3 minutes while stirring frequently. Pour in tomatoes, chicken broth corn and beans. Bring everything to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer on medium-low approx. 5 minutes. You can freeze portions or store in fridge for future lunches. Add cooked, ground beef if you want a more robust soup. Include a roll and shredded cheese and a veggie and dip pack.
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 T. flour
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning (sage will work)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup hash brown potatoes (I use chopped leftover potatoes)
1 cup frozen corn (I use canned Niblets)
3/4 cup cooked chicken
seasonings to taste.
Cook onion in oil until tender. Stir frequently. Sprinkle flour and seasoning over onions and cook another minute. Add milk. Continue to cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Add potatoes and corn. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add chicken and heat thoroughly. Package cheese biscuits or buns or the cheese muffins to go with this dish.
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup pepperoni slices, cut into quarters
1/2 cup green peppers, chopped
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
Sauté onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add mushrooms, green pepper, and pepperoni. Cook over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Top individual servings with Parmesan cheese and serve with breadsticks, a crusty roll or cheese muffins.
2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. non-salt seasoning
1 package dry onion soup mix (for 3 or 4 servings)
6 cups boiling water
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 T. soy sauce
1 cup celery, sliced
1/4 cup celery leaves
1 cup sliced carrots
1/3 cup dried split peas
1 cup elbow macaroni
grated Parmesan cheese
In a large saucepan, brown meat, drain excess fat. Add salt, pepper, oregano, basil, seasoned salt, and onion soup mix. Stir in boiling water, tomato sauce, and soy sauce. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, prepare celery, celery leaves, and carrots. Add prepared vegetables and split peas to simmering mixture and continue to cook for 30 minutes. Add macaroni and simmer for another 30 minutes. If necessary add more water. Stir occasionally. Serve with multigrain bread or crackers, cheese muffins or pita wedges.
With a little planning ahead kids’ lunches can be nutritious and varied. Here are some quick suggestions to keep lunches easy but add some variety
Change the Bread
For a change from everyday sandwich use soft tortillas for wraps, bagels, English muffins, pita pockets or fresh baked rolls.
Try Different Sandwich Fillings
Alter the sandwich fillings. Consider combinations like diced chicken and corn, ham and avocado, grated carrot and cheddar cheese, or jam and cream cheese.
Don’t Forget the Veggies
To ensure your child gets her daily requirement of vegetables cut up a selection of carrot sticks and celery sticks. Consider also other veggies like cucumber, ears of baby corn, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini. Pack a small container of dip. This can accompany any sandwich or soup.
Cut up different pieces of fruit and package in a plastic container. Use fruit or vanilla yogurt as a tasty dip.
Fruit & Cheese Bites
Cheese cubes and grapes make a nice snack or lunch dessert. Pineapple and apple slices dipped in lemon juice also go nice with cheese.
Create Your Own Snack Mix
Use a selection of small flavorful crackers, cereal, dried fruit or pretzels. Just about anything goes. For an occasional kid lunch box treat toss in a few M & Ms or yogurt or chocolate covered raisins. Experiment with different mixes and pre-package in individual zip lock bags.
Use homemade oatmeal cookies or even healthy store-bought cookies to create a quick dessert sandwich. Mix a little light cream cheese and low-sugar jam across a cookie and top with a second cookie to create a dessert sandwich. Try low-sugar oatmeal cookies with cream cheese and strawberry jam filling or whole wheat snicker doodles with cream cheese and peach jam filling.
Combine fresh fruit and low-sugar instant pudding to create a mini parfait that tops off your little one’s lunch in style. Build the mini parfait with one layer pudding, one layer fruit, a second layer of pudding and a second layer of fruit. Try instant chocolate pudding with diced strawberries for a classic flavor or instant vanilla pudding with fresh blueberries for a light taste.
Fast Banana Pudding
Mix instant banana pudding with chopped bananas and pecans for a rich treat or instant lemon pudding with diced mango for a tropical twist.
Turn apples into dessert dippers to sneak extra fiber into your child’s lunch. Sprinkle sliced apples or pears with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning. Pack the fruit slices in a lidded container. Mix sugar-free caramel syrup with a little natural applesauce to create a caramel-apple dip or use sugar-free chocolate syrup for a pure chocolate dip.
[box_warning]Always check with your school district below sending any foods to school that are linked to common allegeries such as nuts and seafood. [/box_warning]