​​​​​​‘Tis the season for back-to-school!

That means new backpacks, math homework and the added responsibility of making lunches. Wellness Chef Geremy Capone and Registered Dietitian Christy Brissette of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre's ELLICSR Kitchen show us that making healthy lunches can be easy --- and delicious.

Time-Saving Tips for Healthy Lunches

Have a Plan:

  • Set aside time to plan your meals for the week. As a family, look through recipes in cookbooks or online. Have each child choose a recipe they want to try for lunch that week. By getting them involved, they’re more likely to be excited about their lunch rather than wanting to trade it! Bonus – this is a great way to introduce new lunch options into your usual rotation.
  • Decide on a few lunch options for the week so you can be sure you have the right ingredients on hand. Post the lunch “menu” on the fridge so the family knows what to expect.
  • Try washing and chopping your vegetables when you have more time – like on the weekend – so they are ready to add to lunches.
  • Make “planned leftovers” to use in lunches. If you’re having chicken for dinner, prepare a few extra chicken breasts that can be cubed or sliced and added to pasta salad or a wrap.
  • ​Pack lunches the night before. This will prevent the stress of trying to throw together a lunch on busy mornings. Also, when you pack lunches after dinner you can get the kids involved in assembling them. This increases the chances they’ll eat their lunch the next day.

Stock up!

A well-stocked kitchen can make all the difference when you need healthy meals in minutes. Here are a few options to keep on hand:

  • Single-portion plain yogurt
  • Canned light tuna packed in water
  • Whole wheat and brown rice pasta and couscous
  • Canned beans
  • Dried fruit
  • Whole grain, low sugar cereal
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Apple sauce (no sugar added)
  • A variety of vegetables and fruit, fresh and frozen
  • Drink boxes of milk or soymilk

Presentation is Key

  • Purchase brightly coloured lunch bags, glass or BPA-free plastic containers, cutlery and napkins. Kids are more likely to be excited about lunch when it comes in a fun package.
  • Kids love things that are “mini”. Try baking mini muffins, make turkey sliders on mini pitas or try mini bagels with almond butter.
  • Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes like stars or dinosaurs.
  • Look for storage containers that are “bento style” where they are separated into small sections. Fill each section with foods of a variety of textures and colours, such as grapes, melon balls, cubed cheese, hardboiled eggs, whole grain crackers and cucumber slices. Kids also love dips – send some hummus, guacamole or yogurt-based dip with sliced veggies and whole grain bread sticks.

Healthy Lunch Ideas

  1. Turkey Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions and Mushroom Ketchup

    Skill Level: *
    Preparation Time: 20 minutes
    Servings: 8
    Cost Per Serving: $1.79
    Image of Turkey Meatloaf
    Get the recipe!

  2. Roasted Honey Sriracha Cauliflower Bites

    Skill Level: *
    Preparation Time: 10 minutes
    Servings: 6
    Cost Per Serving: $0.63
    Image of Sriracha Cauliflower Bites
    Get the recipe!

  3. Soft Rosemary Garlic Pretzels with Honey Mustard

    Skill Level: **
    Preparation Time: 10 minutes (+ 1 hour to rise)
    Servings: 10 pretzels (+ 1 tbsp honey mustard per pretzel)
    Cost Per Serving: $0.36
    Image of Rosemary Pretzels
    Get the recipe!

  4. ​​Turkey, Kale and Squash Meatballs

    Skill Level: *
    Preparation Time: 15 minutes
    Servings: 24 meatballs (3 meatballs per serving)
    Cost Per Serving: $0.93
    Image of Turkey Kale Meatballs
    Get the recipe!

About ELLICSR kitchen

The ELLICSR Kitchen is a cooking and nutrition program at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre designed to support people in eating well before, during and after cancer treatment.

The kitchen hosts a series of dynamic healthy cooking classes led by chef Geremy and Registered Dietitian Christy. Demonstrations take place the first three Thursdays of the month from 12:15 – 1:15 p.m. in ELLICSR: Health, Wellness & Cancer Survivorship Centre in the basement of Toronto General Hospital (BCS-021). The Patient Education and Survivorship program is supported by the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

Can't make it? You can catch the cooking show webisodes on ELLICSR Kitchen's YouTube Channel.

For more healthy lunchtime recipes, visit ELLICSR Kitc hen's archive.

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