Written by Jolene Hrynyk, a volunteer at Calgary Family Nutrition. For more information, you can see her bio here

It’s that time of year again. The point at which you I’ve memorized every back to school commercial word-for-word, and am actually ready to go supply shopping. Back to school also means back to packing school lunches which is why I am is excited to share this lunch-packing basics post with you. In the world of perfectly photographed bento box lunches, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed as a busy parent on what to provide for lunch. It doesn’t have to be that hard. My method is so easy your child could (and maybe should!) do it themselves. 

What to pack

  1. A main with carbohydrates, protein and fat ( Usually a whole-grain and a meat or meat alternative)
  2. A fruit
  3. A vegetable

Let’s break it down further.

A main with carbohydrates, protein and fat

Many of the things you’re already packing probably already fill these criteria. A PB and J sandwich? The bread has carbohydrates and the peanut butter has some protein and fat. While a sandwich is the most traditional choice, this can also be a variety of other things. I worked at a summer camp and saw kids bring all sorts of things I had never even thought of (a few of which are featured in the photos below), so be open and try new things!

Some sandwich alternatives include; crackers and hummus, a muffin and hard boiled egg, pancakes and greek yogurt, leftovers, a wrap rolled up with nut/seed butter and fruit.

Main: Leftover cheese and spinach Quesadillas with the tortilla for carbohydrate, Cheese and Tzatziki for protein and fat

Fruit: A Clementine

Vegetable: Sliced Peppers


Generally, kids, especially young ones want things that are both quick and easy to eat. That means most whole pieces of fruit aren’t going to get eaten. I would love to know how many apples get thrown out every year in lunchrooms across the country. Keeping it bite sized is a good rule of thumb!

Great options; Berries, apples sprinkled with lemon to prevent browning, easy-peel oranges, grapes.

Main: Granola for carbohydrates, greek yogurt and hemp hearts for protein and fat

Fruit: Frozen berries (they thaw in time for lunch!)

Vegetable: Sliced peppers


As with fruit, easy to eat options generally go over the best. Lunch is not the best time to try out foods your child has an aversion to. Save broccoli for dinner when you’re there to role model for them. If your child won’t eat any vegetable without dip that’s okay, invest in some small containers or mini squeeze bottles like the one pictured below.

Main: Banana oat muffins for carbohydrate with cheese and a hard boiled egg for some fat and protein

Fruit: A nectarine

Vegetable: Cherry tomatoes

I’ll be sharing some bonus tips as the week goes on that I use to make sure healthy lunches happen! Are you excited to get back into the school routine or dreading the end of the summer?

If you need help with making lunches for your family and taking the struggles out of “I only want bearpaw’s and goldfish crackers!”, book an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians here