Back to School with Cityline

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We all know it’s coming, and you’re likely dreading it, as all parents are – back to school and those darn lunches. Seasoned parents (even those with high school kids) need new inspiration for packing lunches and getting great food into their kids. If you’re a newbie at this with a child off to school for the first time, all of the below is for you too. To get you off to a great start, I’ve got handy tips and lots of lunch ideas that I also shared on Cityline with Tracy Moore.

Start of the school year

Firstly, I want you to write down the lunches that you make in the first weeks because that’s when you’re most creative. Then, when you’re running out of steam in the idea department and you’re stuck for inspiration, take a look back at them. You can download and use the Sprout Right Weekly Lunch Planner to keep track of both planning and also what you’ve made. Save them all in a folder. These are great for both parents and kids to write on.

The Smart Kids Breakfast and Lunch meal plan is also a great, time-saving tool for inspiration and healthy lunch ideas. It has 10 breakfast ideas, 15 thermos-fillers, 20 sandwich/wrap fillings, and lots of tasty and simple side dishes. Check it out and order yours for kids of all ages.

Kindergarten to 2nd Grade

Let’s start with kindergarten to around 2nd grade. They need to have easy-to-open lunch boxes. Use lunch gear that they love, filled with simple, easy-to-eat foods. Some kids like mixed up stuff and some like everything separate.

Bento box type containers are excellent for things like filling a toothpick with:

  • cheddar cheese and grapes
  • bocconcini and baby tomato with basil
  • feta cheese and watermelon

For kids who love dipping their veggies or crackers, hummus is the most fibre-rich. Edamame dip is a great source of plant-based protein, guacamole keeps then going with neutral fats and tzatziki for yogurt lovers. Some pita triangles, veggies (like zucchini or carrot sticks, green beans or sugar snap peas), and they could be set.

Those recess snacks keep their energy going, so send along a little bag with raisins and puffed cereal, apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon, a trusty applesauce cup, or MadeGood school-safe granola bars that are allergy-free and have vegetable powders in them for a quick boost. Also, for after school or a Friday treat, the new MadeGood cookies are so tasty that they won’t ever know that, just like in the bars and bites, there are vegetable powders so it’s a healthier cookie!

Grade 3 to Grade 6

From grade 3 up to around grade 6, think outside the sandwich and fill pita bread or use wraps so there’s a better balance of carbs to protein. There are many kids who don’t really even like sandwiches.

Now is a great time to introduce more feedback about lunches with the incredible Sprout Right Lunchbox Survey that they can fill out right after they eat their lunch. It’ll save the “it was ok” response when you ask how their lunch was and they can’t even recall what was in their lunchbox. Download it for free and send with kids of any age!

Wraps filled with tuna or salmon and cucumber or pickles, mashed egg with red pepper, grated carrot and hummus, grated cheese, chicken and barbecue sauce. Any of the separate ideas work well for kids here too. Fish cakes with sweet potato fries are a hearty lunch with slow-release carbs and brainy fats, and add some sugar snap peas that are sweet and fun to pull apart. Breakfast for lunch options like Blender Pancakes with protein-rich ricotta and some fruit spread with a hard boiled egg works great for a change.

A thermos filled with pasta, like meat-filled ravioli with a meat sauce or any leftovers make an excellent warm lunch. Remember that all of these lunches can be eaten by any age group.

Grade 7’s and 8’s

Grade 7’s and 8’s need cool lunches (and gear) and this is when, if they aren’t contributing already, it’s time to get them to make their own lunches. As the school year starts, sit down and talk about who is going to make what, and when. Maybe they get Friday off and build their own lunch from Monday to Thursday. Here’s a great Meal Plan Template that they can use to get the hang of it. Make it the night before, once dinner is done, so that it’s not a rush in the morning.

The gear is crucial here, they’ve moved past the cute stuff and maybe want their favourite movie character or a plain block colour. All the gear here is from and will allow them to build their lunch in a healthful way.

Once you know their favourites, suggest using skewers, or taking leftovers in a thermos. If they like more of a snack-type lunch then use the bento-box type lunch boxes. It keeps them organized. They must take fruit and vegetables every day and have some protein and energy-rich whole grain carbs. Some of the lunch boxes that provided me for the Cityline segment have lids that seal up the segments of the lunchbox, so any dips or sauces won’t end up mingling with everything else. Genius!

High School

High school is where you can lose some kids to a very junk food based lunch. With the cafeteria and going to local hangouts with their friends, maybe you’re dealing with a vegetarian – no matter what, you’ve got to up your game. If they’re still into anything that I’ve mentioned already, excellent. If not then make their go-to, like pizza, but jam pack it with vegetables and use the cheese to stick it down. Leftover slices of meat pies, things like samosas, dishes made with veggie noodles to keep their veggie count up. Also, leftover meals like butter chicken goes down well in a thermos or microwavable container that they can heat up at school. Edamame beans are great snacks either on their own or in a slaw. Smoothies are great pre- or post-sports or games, along with granola bars that can live in the bottom of their backpacks until they need them.

In all cases, hydration is essential – so let them choose their favourite water bottle so they take it and bring it home again!

All food was provided by Farm Boy in Etobicoke, so thank you to them.
If you liked the look of any of the gear in the Cityline segment, do check out and their incredible range of products for all ages.

For more info about varieties of MadeGood bars, check out their site here.

Watch the Cityline segment here.
Watch my Facebook Live from Tuesday, August 21st for a deeper look at the lunchbox gear and even more new ideas!

Download the Sprout Right Weekly Lunch Planner here.
Download the Sprout Right Lunchbox Survey here.

2 Responses to “Back to School with Cityline”

  1. Treasure says:

    HI Lianne,

    Just happened across your segment on CityLine via YouTube. I bought a copy of your book when i was pregnant with my second son and really followed it religiously. I think it’s partly why he’s such a great eater today at 6 years old. (I love your book so much I gift to all the pregnant women i know). My older son is a little pickier and it doesnt help that his classmates have every allergy know to man.
    Anywhoo, what can you recommend to send for lunch when there are lots of allergies? I cannot send anything that my 9 year old loves.
    Classroom Allergies include:
    Legumes (Chickpea, kidney beans, edamame< etc)
    Anything from the ocean (so no Tuna, Salmon, Seaweed, etc)
    The usual peanuts & tree nuts

    I need HELP!!

    Also, you need to right a book for /about older children!!!

    Thank you,
    Treasure Greaux

  2. SproutRight says:

    Hi Treasure,

    Thanks for your feedback. Allergies certainly curb a lot of what can be taken to school for lunch. It improves as they get older, so do hang in there and know that it’s not like this forever.

    I’d suggest maxing out sunflower seed, pumpkin seed and sesame seed butters (tahini). Filled pasta or gnocchi with Sunflower Kitchen Pesto (made with sunflower seeds not nuts), or pasta shapes with leftover chicken and sauce. Thinking about more leftover type meals that include dairy, quinoa, seeds, meat, as protein sources are good ideas. Did you see the Smart Kids Breakfast and Lunch Meal Plan on It has loads of suggestions of wrap or sandwich fillings, skewer options and ideas for the thermos. It would help a lot I’m sure.

    I hope that these ideas get you going to find some other safe options.

    Sprout Right Family Meals is in the works and will hit bookstores next summer, so stay tuned!!

    Be well,


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