It’s that time again… school is back in!  My youngest started Kindergarten this year, so this is the first time that I’ll have both kids on the same school schedule. And while I’m excited to get back into a routine after a fun-filled summer, it also means the return to packed lunches. I know, I can hear the collective groan as I write. While I certainly don’t love packing lunches every day, I do have a bit of a template to help simplify the process. My goal is to provide a lot of different items to ensure they have enough on those days when they’re extra hungry as well as enough variety that they’re not getting sick of the same thing. I ensure there are 6-8 items in the packed lunch, including:

  • Entree: I try to use leftovers at least a couple of times a week. It could be a literal repeat of a supper meal, or a reinvention of it. For example, if we have a stir-fry one evening, I may use the protein from it to make into a wrap. 
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  • 1-2 Protein choices i.e. hummus, cheese, yogurt, roasted chickpeas, seed butter etc.
  • 1-2 Carb choices i.e. granola bar, energy balls, homemade muffins, crackers etc.
  • 2-3 fruit or vegetable choices

When it comes to the fruit and vegetables, choose ones that will hold their consistency and flavour throughout the day. I tend to choose fruits that slice easily without getting slimy or can stay whole without getting bruised. Strawberries are a favourite for my kids. I just wash and stack in a reusable container and we’re good to go. California strawberries are full of immune-boosting vitamin C, which is particularly important this time of year when those little germ monkeys are back in the same room for several hours a day. A serving of 8 California strawberries provides them with a sweet energy boost mid-day and is a great source of fibre.

Need more inspiration? Here are some quick and healthy snacks ideas. 

  • Dehydrated California strawberries served with yogurt dip
  • Assorted cut up veggies with dip ie. hummus, guacamole, tzatziki
  • Dessert tofu with fresh fruit
  • Cheese with cut up veggies and whole grain crackers
  • Applesauce with yogurt
  • Energy balls made with oats, soy or seed butter, coconut and hemp seeds
  • Granola, yogurt and California strawberry parfait
  • A small whole grain muffin topped with seed butter 
  • Ants on a Log – celery spread with seed or soy butter, topped with raisins

Here are some entree ideas that can easily be packed for school:

  • Sandwich triangles made with egg, tuna, or chicken salad
  • Mini pizza (homemade pizza on an English muffin or pita) 
  • Make your own ‘snackable’ lunch box with: fresh vegetables and fruit, cheese cubes or string cheese, leftover pieces of meat, mini whole grain bagels or whole grain crackers (use muffin liners or small plastic containers to separate different items)
  • Lettuce wraps: a mix of leftover noodles or rice, vegetables, meat or beans and sauce wrapped in lettuce leaves
  • Pita pocket with hummus, lettuce, shredded carrots, cucumber slices and cheese
  • Burrito (refried beans,grated cheddar cheese, guacamole, wrapped in whole wheat flour tortilla)
  • Chili with a slice of wholewheat bread
  • Whole grain noodles topped with tomato sauce and cheese
  • Tuna melts
  • Homemade pancakes or waffles topped with thinly spread seed butter
    Quesadilla – cheese melted in whole grain tortilla served with guacamole

Although this blog post was written with the support of California Strawberries, all thoughts are entirely my own!