Bringing Balance: think outside the lunchbox

What happened to summer?  How is it that the dreaded school lunches are almost upon us again?  If you’re already feeling the panic when it comes to packed lunches, here are a few of my best tips to take some of the stress out of lunches and to help get you out of the sandwich rut:

Is your “go-to” kids’ lunch a processed meat and cheese sandwich? There are lots of ways to make a sandwich more interesting:

• change the bread: try whole grain pita pocket, roll it up your filings in a tortilla and make “pinwheels”, or use whole grain crackers, waffles or brown rice cakes instead of sliced bread.

• change the filling: use hummus or another bean dip with some sliced veggies, cream cheese with shredded carrot and cucumber, sliced grilled chicken or egg salad.

• don’t go nuts! Most schools are “nut-free” so the old standby of PB&J is out, but don’t despair, there are a few great spreadable alternatives out there that are school-safe, like sunflower seed butter or pumpkin seed butter, both of which are
available at your grocery store in the natural food section.

• add a “secret ingredient” like sliced strawberries to a sunbutter & jam sandwich or dill pickles or olives to a veggie wrap.


Think outside the lunchbox and skip the sandwich altogether! Try one of these more creative lunch ideas:

• deli box: pack your own healthy “lunchables” using various small containers or a divided bento box style lunchbox. Hard-boiled eggs, cubed chicken and cheese, bean dips, tzatziki, whole-grain crackers, a healthy homemade muffin, fruit slices and raw veggies will provide a well-balanced “finger-foods” lunch.

• hot stuff:  soups, chili, and pasta can all be sent hot in a thermos with a side of fruit and veggies.  Make extra at dinner for the next day’s lunches or cook a big batch on the weekend.  

• pasta salads:  Cook some extra noodles the evening before and toss them with chopped raw veggies, some chickpeas or cooked chicken, and a favourite healthy salad dressing for a quick pasta salad.

• cottage cheese or greek yogurt with berries and sunflower or pumpkin seeds and a little honey or maple syrup, paired with some veggies and homemade wholegrain muffin, makes a pretty great lunch.

• kabob’s your uncle:  A fruit kabob with a side of yoghurt for dipping, baby tomato, cucumber and red pepper veggie kabob along with a protein kabob loaded with cubed chicken, cheese make a fun & healthy lunch.

If you found these suggestions helpful, you just might love my School Lunch Solutions workshops.  I’m hosting two in September, one on the 10th and the other on the 24th.  For info and to pre-register, click here.


Wendy McCallum, LLB, RHN, is passionate about providing busy parents with the tools & support they need to feed their families wholesome food, so everyone can play, learn, and feel better!  She is a mother of two terrific nine-year old kids. For information and recipe ideas, visit her website or pick-up her cookbook

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