Healthy packed lunches, time to take the junk out of the lunch bag

O.K. parents out there.  What do you pack for your kids school lunches??  I volunteer occasionally at my children's school and see first hand what some of these kids are eating.  I must say it is absolutely unbelievable.

Our children are special and we want nothing but the best for them.  That being said, why is it some children get lunches made of things they are NOT real food?  I have seen a child who would get a large bag of marshmallows and a can of pop for lunch.  Guess what?  This child could not sit still and concentrate if their life depended on it.  Talk about impeding their ability to learn.

It really makes we wonder what these children are eating for breakfast.  Perhaps a large bowl a sugary cereal,  a chocolate chip muffin from Canada's fave coffee shop.  Ever check the food guides?  1 chocolate chip muffin can have 430 calories,  16g of fat, only 2 grams of fiber and 40 grams of sugar.  That's like giving your child about 8 teaspoons of sugar.  Talk about crash and burn.

Cooking is not rocket science.  Healthy food does not have to be expensive or take a lot of time to prepare.  

Healthy breakfast ideas
-Whole wheat toast, 1/2 bagel or English muffin w/nut butter & 1 cup 100% juice/fruit salad, yogurt or milk
-sliced fresh fruit and cottage cheese or fresh cheese (Danino)
-yogurt parfait made with a low sugar yogurt, fresh fruit and a bit of granola, nuts or seeds and ground flax seeds sprinkled on top(make the night before)
-Smoothie made with yogurt, milk, juice and fresh fruit, a few whole grain crackers with cheese or nut butter
-homemade muffins with added fiber(flax seed, whole wheat flour) low sugar, low fat with a banana and milk  
-scrambled egg with veggies(peppers, onions, broccoli) a sprinkle of cheese and wrap in a whole wheat tortilla

Healthy lunch ideas
Purchase a steel thermal food jar from Canadian tire when they go on sale and use your Canadian tire money stash.  You may have enough to get it free!  This gives you the option of packing hot and cold lunches.

-Leftover chili, soup or stew in a thermal jar(great in the winter)

-a sandwich on w/w bread or tortilla.  I freeze left over meat like sliced roast beef, chicken or pork for lunch sandwiches.  If I am purchasing deli meat I only purchase pre-packaged Maple Leaf Natural Selections (no preservatives) Load it up with fresh veggies & add a bit of cheese. Go easy on the fatty things like mayo & sub sauce. 

-pizza buns-top whole wheat buns with leftover pasta sauce or salsa.  Add toppings like leftover meat from dinner, fresh veg and cheese.  To cook broil a few minutes until the cheese is melted.  This is also great made with the whole wheat pocket-less pitas which are about $1 a bag at Food Basics.

-Pasta salad-Cook whole wheat penne pasta, toss with fresh veg, small cubes of cheddar cheese or feta and a homemade dressing or try Kraft's low fat sun dried tomato or Greek dressing.   

Let's talk Lunchables.  My kid's tell me that they have friends who take these everyday for lunch.  I have never purchased these and never will.  They are:
A) Costly  I think the regular ham, cheese & cracker one is about $2.49.  So a quick calculation of 2 kids X 5 days X 2.49 is $25 a week not including snacks, fruits drinks and veggies.  $100 bucks a month for garbage.   Ham, cheese & cracker combo has 340 calories, 170 calories from fat, yep it's 50% fat, gross! 19 grams of fat, almost 50% of the daily allowance of sodium and 1 measly gram of fiber.

B) They are processed looking and I don't know what some of the ingredients are, I'm not a scientist!!  My kids said they look like they are made of fake cheese and plastic ham.  I guarantee you they would not eat it if I packed it for them!

I could make a healthy homemade lunch with all snacks, drink, fruit and veggies for 1 month for much less than that!  

2 loaves w/w bread @ $1.39 each $2.78
1 Natural Selections ham w/coupon $2.49
1 Natural Selections turkey w/coupon $2.49
2 lettuce $2
4 cucumber $4
3 red peppers from local farm $1.50
10lb apples from a local farm $10
4 oranges $3.50
bananas 2 small bunches $4
5-6lb plums/nectarines $6
kiwi 3/$1
organic carrots 1 bag on sale $2
organic celery w/coupon $2.50
4lb pears $3.50
yogurt on sale w/ coupons $10.50
1 brick low fat cheddar $4.44
soy milk on sale w/ coupons @ 2.74 each $5.48
2 boxes whole grain Melba rounds@ bread outlet $2.40
Homemade Hummus about $2.50
1 batch macaroni salad (dressing & noodles on sale + coupons) about $4.50
homemade pita pizza-pitas ($1),1/2 pack veggie peperoni($1.50),1/2 small jar salsa($1.25) & 1/3 lg brick of cheese on sale(1.50)  $5.25 for 6 mini pizzas
Homemade low fat high fiber zucchini, pumpkin and cranberry/orange loaf about $10
100% fruit juice 2 frzn O.J. w/ added calcium and Vit D $3.78
1 can 100% apple juice $1
leftovers in thermal jar a few days of the month

Grand Total $97.61 for lunches for 2 kids for the month including snacks, fruit, veggies, yogurt, soy milk and juice.  Far better then the $100 just for Lunchables, not including any snacks, fruit or drinks.  The good thing is you can read all the ingredients

I have seen the overweight children and the lunches eat at school.  Believe it or not a chicken nugget Happy Meal with fries and pop or a slice of pizza and a can of pop brought to the children at lunchtime is a staple for some.  It is not only a waste of time, money and energy but contributes to the rapid decline of your child's health.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking in the healthier direction.  Check out site like Canadian Living http://www.canadianliving.com/food/ and Jamie's Food Revolution for more great food ideas! The possibilities are endless.   Try to buy local, in season produce to save some money.  Check your local flyers, use coupons and try to prepare as much food as you can rather then paying a company to do it for you.  Feed your children real food and you will see a difference in their health, their ability to concentrate and excel in school.


  1. It’s funny how many parents feed their children nothing more then crap and think that its healthy. Like you said, its easy to provide your children with good healthy choice that will provide them with enough fuel for the entire day. I don’t think that some parents see that they are choosing bad things for the kids. You don’t need to have organic food or even that much money (like you have shown from above) to make great choice for your children. As parents, don’t we have that obligation?

  2. I love this post! You are so right and offer great suggestions. It's healthier and more cost friendly to make the types of meals you are suggesting. It doesn't take much to make major changes in the eating habits and overall health of our children. I hear ya, Deanna!

  3. Thanks for the comments. Lindsay-being an elementary teacher how often do you see "junkie" lunches? (% of children in 1 class)