Make lunch not war

Getting kids to eat the lunches you pack for them can be an ongoing struggle but these tips can give you an advantage.

By Edie Shaw-Ewald

During the back-to-school frenzy of equipping your children with the long lists of school supplies, clothes and indoor and outdoor footwear, the subject of what they are going to eat at school may not be top of mind.

No pressure though—you just have to provide nutritious, delicious, eco-friendly, easy-to-prepare, budget-wise lunches for each student in your family for approximately 186 days this school year. Breathe…and follow these tips:

Make a plan together
Come up with a list of lunch foods that appeal to your children. Discuss at their level of understanding the health, environment and cost benefits of using fresh, real foods rather than most processed, single-portion packaged foods for their lunches. Delegate age-appropriate lunch prep jobs.

Make a school lunch station in your kitchen. Designate a shelf or drawer to school lunch preparation. Equip it with a cutting board, knife, peeler, reusable lunch containers, flatware, bags and water bottles.

Make an investment
Some lunch containers lend themselves to efficient, healthy lunch making. One litterless lunch system to consider is tiffins. These stainless-steel stackable containers are available at P’lovers in Park Lane Mall on Spring Garden Road, Halifax and at My Lil Package on Brookside Road, Brookside.

Nurtured Products for Parenting on Robie Street in Halifax carries many litterless lunch options, including LunchBots. This is another stainless-steel line of containers.

Fun bento-box inspired lunch containers from Laptop Lunches make it easy to pack a variety of different foods for lunch and snacks.

My favourite lunch system over the years has been Laptop Lunch containers. Designed by two moms, the containers resemble Japanese bento boxes. My sons didn’t lose a piece and enjoyed eating out of them for several years. They are available online at (get a 10-per-cent discount when you use the coupon code: nutritioncoach).

No matter what type of lunch storage system you pick, label your containers.

Make it nutritious and earth friendly
It is a wonderful coincidence that healthier food choices do not usually produce a lot of garbage. Real whole food or minimally processed foods are the best. Design the lunch to contain at least three of the four major food groups: vegetables/ fruits, grains, milk or alternate and protein. And always include a water bottle.

Keep sweets to the occasional treat. A high sugar intake can depress the immune system for hours. If you imagine all of that germ sharing that goes on in the classroom, lunchtime is not the time to depress the immune system.

Make it delicious
A few lunch ideas:

  • Strips of sweet peppers, whole grain muffin, hard-boiled egg, slice of cheddar cheese.
  • Quinoa mixed with chopped raw veggies, small cubes of cheese and vinaigrette, orange segments.
  • Cheese tortellini, baby carrots, melon cubes.
  • Whole wheat rotini pasta, raw broccoli, cauliflower, cubes of ham, banana.
  • Raw veggies, mini whole wheat pitas, hummus, grapes.

Leftovers from dinner can become good lunch possibilities, too:

  • Pasta with tomato and meat sauce, peach slices.
  • Chili with grated cheese, whole-wheat roll, apple.
  • Stir-fried veggies, chicken and brown rice, yogurt and berries.

Whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa and other grains from dinner can become part of lunches the next day. Make extra of these items to have on hand for quick preparation.

Ultimately, there will still be days when you find a forgotten, uneaten lunch at the bottom of a backpack, all smelly and smushy. But don’t get discouraged—just think back to these tips and…breathe.


Black Bean and Brown Rice Burritos
Make a batch of these burritos and store extra in the freezer.

1 red pepper, fresh or roasted, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 can rinsed, drained black beans
1/2 cup (125 ml) frozen corn
1 cup (250 ml) cooked brown rice
2 tsp (10 ml) chili powder
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
2 Tbsp (30 ml) salsa
1/2 cup (125 ml) grated Monterey Jack cheese
whole wheat flour tortillas

Throw all of the ingredients (except for tortillas) in a bowl and mix. Spoon filling evenly down centre of each tortilla. Fold sides of tortilla and roll up.

Hidden Veggie Tuna Sammies  
Finely diced celery and cucumber dress up tuna salad sandwich filling. Recipe courtesy Presidents’ Choice.

Hidden Veggie Tuna Sammies, Photo courtesy Presidents’ Choice

2 cans (each 170 g) PC Chunk Light Tuna in Water, drained
2 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
1 small stalk celery, finely diced
2 Tbsp (30 ml) diced cucumber (skin on)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) mayonnaise
2 tsp (10 ml) Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 ml) chopped fresh dill
1/8 tsp (.5 ml)) salt
9 PC Slider Thins Mini Burger Buns
1 cup (250 ml) mixed baby greens

  1. In bowl and using a fork, combine tuna, green onions, celery, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, dill and salt.
  2. Open slider buns and place on work surface. Divide greens among bottom halves of slider buns. Top with a scoop of tuna salad, dividing evenly. Makes 3 servings.

Edie Shaw-Ewald is a dietitian and fitness coach with a private practice. Visit her website at and her recipe blog at