Planning for weekday lunches can be overwhelming, but spending some time over the weekend prepping ahead can help to ensure a stress-free week. Kids are very active at school, so healthy lunches and snacks are an important part of your child’s day – it ensures they have enough nutrients and energy to concentrate, learn, play, and recharge. When you take the time to plan ahead, you can make your lunchbox stacked with the 6 essentials – download the lunchbox planner here.
Fruit (1 serving)– fresh & washed
Vegetable (2 servings) – raw or cooked, you can pair with a dip
Dairy/Dairy alternative (1 serving) – milk, yogurt, cheese, soy milk or soy yogurt
Protein (1 serving) – lean meat i.e. chicken, turkey, boiled eggs, hummus
Whole grain or high fibre (2 servings)– bread, crackers, quinoa, rice
Water – pack a refillable water bottle so they can sip throughout the day when needed
It’s great to get the kids involved in the lunch making process. They can help plan the weekly menu, write the grocery list, shop for food, and prep the lunches. And kids who help make and pack their lunch are more likely to eat it.
Lunch time smoothies
Smoothies are always a hit in our house and they’re an easy way to ensure everyone (even my husband) gets some plant-powered goodness. In all fairness, I do have to sneak it in there – but it’s doable! The more berries, the better, because the berries do such a great job covering up the “green” taste and colour. Kids are all about appearances so to avoid the brownish-coloured smoothie, make sure you stick to one colour for every smoothie. Berries, beets and watermelon (mmm) are great at deep colouring. This blender is perfect for a quick smoothie or a blend-and-go with its handy lids.
Heart health = red fruits
Green = strong!
Orange veggies = eye health
White veggies = digestion
Yellow veggies = immunity boost
Here is our everyday go-to smoothie. You can change it up with seasonal fruit and veggies.
- 1 cup whole milk or milk alternative
- 1⁄4 cup yogurt of choice (we use plain Greek)
- 1 frozen banana
Add some of your family’s favourites
- 1⁄4 cup frozen cauliflower
- 1⁄4 cup frozen spinach
- 1⁄4 cup frozen strawberries
- 1⁄4 cup blueberries
- 1⁄4 cup pineapple
- 1⁄4 cup mixed fruit
- 1⁄2 cup frozen peas and carrots
- Pour milk into the blender
- Add banana, frozen veggies and a fruit to blender
- Blend for a minute
- Serve in a toddler friendly container – we love these Funtainers (and they stay frozen for the lunchbox)
Prep like a pro
Cooking and baking in batches can save you SO much time and the freezer is your best ally when it comes to prepping for the week. I like to double our dinner portions when making freezable dishes like pasta, rice, meat etc. Keeping them in an airtight container will ensure they stay fresh. While making dinner, you can cut up your fruit and veggies for the week. I always make lunches when I’m already in the kitchen, this is a huge time saver and because you are already cooking, you aren’t adding any extra clean up or dishes to wash. We always buy large portions of food (especially if they are on sale!) and keep them as a go to in the freezer. With two kids at home you can never have ready to eat food.
Raiding the fridge
It’s important to keep the fridge organized so you can keep your eyes on leftovers and food that can be re-invented before they go bad. If you have a picky left-over eater like I do, you can add extra ingredients, fry it up with some new sauce, turn chicken breast into strips with a side of tzatziki – the options are endless. If there are any veggies or fruit that might be past its prime, wash them pack them into a container and toss them into the freezer to use them for smoothies.
Packing a lunch
It’s so important to keep foods safe to eat, especially for young children. Proper food storage is vital, this thermal food jar keeps foods hot for up to 5 hours and cold for up to 7 hours. When filling it with hot food, fill the container with boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes. Heat hot foods until piping hot. Empty the water in the container and fill with the heated food. This will ensure the food stays hot for the longest possible time. Having an insulated lunch bag paired with some ice mats ensures food stays cool until it is consumed. Make sure to wipe lunch bags daily with hot, soapy water.
Want to read more from Danielle?
Check out her Easy Weeknight Dinners The Whole Family Will Enjoy.