A new school year is always a busy time. School bags need packing, lunches need to be made, and we’re all trying to get back into the groove of waking up a bit earlier. This year, new rules around COVID-19 precautions and school re-entry are in place, adding even more onto our plates. With all of the current and upcoming changes, it may be difficult deciding on what are the best foods to send your kids for school. Don’t worry, you are not alone!

Just like the classrooms, lunchboxes may have to look a little different this year. The trend now is to keep things hands-free and disposable to reduce cross-contamination. Keeping lunches healthy and safe doesn’t have to add to the back to school stress. Here are a few tips you can incorporate at home to send your kids with safe and healthy school lunches/snacks and give you some peace of mind for this back to school season.

    1. Meal plan: it’s an easy way to add routine while reducing decision fatigue. An added bonus is that it helps to save on money and time. Review the flyers to see what foods you and your kids enjoy are on sale and build a menu for the week around them. Quick and easy options such as one-pot pasta, wraps, egg bites, and fresh cut veggies, are a great place to start. Post the meal plan for the week on the fridge so you don’t have to wonder about what to cook next!
    2. Leftovers: don’t forget about leftovers! Monday night’s dinner can easily become Tuesday’s lunch and cuts down on having to think of a new dish for every meal.
    3. Utensils: to keep things “COVID-19-friendly”, provide your kids with utensils or wrappings on their food (eg. paper towel, saran wrap) to avoid direct contact with hands. If they require using their hands to eat, remind them to wash their hands before and after touching their food.
    4. Choose shelf-stable: pre-packaged cookies, granola bars, and apple sauces make a great and convenient snack. Buying shelf-stable products in bulk when they’re on sale can cut down on cost and number of trips to the grocery store. They also require minimal contact because they are already pre-packaged. Choose options with oats, fruits, and whole grains for added nutrition!

September is also Hunger Action Month and since school-based meal programs in Calgary are temporarily shut down for safety, some families will be facing hunger now more than ever. I Can for Kids is still working hard to make sure families in need receive grocery gifts cards to help alleviate the hunger. Take action today and make a donation! One hundred percent of your donation will be used to help kids get the most important back to school essential: safe and healthy food.

This article was written by Vanessa So, a dietetic intern working with Calgary Family Nutrition.