Back-to-school lunches: 7 kid-friendly, easy-to-make, dietitian-approved recipes

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WATCH: We know it's hard to come up with daily lunches so Global News asked registered dietitians for 7 kid-friendly, easy-to-make ideas – Sep 9, 2016

It’s tempting to send your kids off to school with a ham and cheese sandwich every day. Chances are, they’ll grow tired of the same old noontime meal, though.

While packaged Lunchables and snacks are also an easy way out, cutting corners could leave your kids hungry, without important food groups covered.

READ MORE: Back to school breakfasts – 7 kid-friendly, easy-to-make, dietitian-approved recipes

We know it’s hard to come up with daily lunches that are easy to make and tasty for kids to eat, too. Global News asked registered dietitians for their go-to lunch recipes when they’re packing their kids’ meals in a rush. The only criteria? The breakfast meals have to be kid friendly, easy to make for parents and dietitian-approved for nutrition.


Winnipeg-based registered dietitian, Susan Watson, whips up these pizzas for lunches and dinners on busy weeknights.

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“The whole grain English muffins give my kids the fibre and energy they need to stay full during an active day at school. I love that the kids can help make them and you can have a ton of ingredient combinations to suit everyone’s tastes,” she said.

Some days, it’s Hawaiian with pineapple, ham and cheese. On other days, she uses leftover roast chicken, barbecue sauce and a handful of crunchy veggies.

READ MORE: 5 ways you’re sabotaging your ‘healthy’ lunchtime sandwich

If your kids are jonesing for pizza, this is an option that’s lower in sodium and saturated fat than ordering delivery. You control what’s going into the dish.

Get the full recipe and cooking directions here.


Parents know kids get tired of sandwiches quickly, Krista Leck Merner said. The Halifax-based registered dietitian says that just changing the carbohydrate component into waffles is enough to break up the boredom.

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“Choosing real fruit versus jam helps to reduce the sugar intake but also ups our fruit and veggie intake for the day,” she said.

READ MORE: In a rush? Here’s what to eat for breakfast in the morning

You can swap out the toppings, to cream cheese and fruit, eggs and ham, or avocado paired with tomato and spinach, she suggested.

Her pro tip? She batch cooks whole grain waffles and pancakes and keeps them in the freezer so they’re ready for this lunchtime recipe.

Get the full recipe and cooking directions here.


Watson loves these skewers because they’re a different take on the conventional sandwich. They’re also interactive, and kids love fun food, she said.

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“Chicken sandwich kabobs are a great way to get your kids to eat more vegetables as they find it fun to eat off the kabob. By using leftover roasted chicken, you’re able to provide your kids with a high quality source of protein that isn’t a processed deli meat,” she said.

READ MORE: Trying to lose weight? 10 tasty foods you’ll like and can eat guilt-free

Because it’s so easy to put together, you can give your kids practice in the kitchen by tasking them with skewering the ingredients.

Get the full recipe and cooking directions here.


Leck Merner said utilizing and repurposing dinnertime leftovers is key to making tasty lunches.

READ MORE: This food will make you feel fuller if you’re trying to lose weight

“This is a great way to use up leftover baked sweet potatoes and chili. Greek yogurt versus sour cream bumps up the protein and beans are a great source of fibre and protein,” Leck Merner told Global News.

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Get the full recipe and cooking directions here.


Instead of chicken, tuna and egg salad as protein sources, Courtice, Ont.-based registered dietitian Nicole Osinga suggested exposing your kids to tofu. It’s a great source of plant-based protein that’ll fill their stomachs healthily.

“I love this recipe because it is super simple to make for busy families and flavour is not sacrificed. Simply bake the tofu the night before – you can do this while making dinner,” Osinga explained.

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“Combine with a bunch of veggies, and you have lunches for a few days. You can also serve the tofu over rice or quinoa with veggies to mix things up,” she said.

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Get the full recipe and cooking directions here.


Tuna salad is a lunchtime classic that’s quick to put together for parents in a rush, according to Kitchener, Ont.-based registered dietitian, Andrea D’Ambrosio.

“Utilize easy lean protein sources like canned tuna when you’re looking for quick lunches,” D’Ambrosio told Global News.

It’s versatile, too.

READ MORE: 9 diet and weight loss mistakes you’re making

“You can serve it on whole grain tortilla, on top of whole grain crackers, an English muffin or on top of a bed of salad greens with red grapes,” she said. It can take minutes, or even faster, to make, especially if you have your vegetables cleaned and cut in advance.

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She also recommends a bean salad, packed with fibre, protein and healthy unsaturated fats. Use one or two types of beans, and toss in different vegetables, such as peppers, cucumber, and tomatoes.

Get the full recipe and cooking directions here.


Brooke Bulloch, a Saskatoon-based registered dietitian, said you can add any protein to her pasta salad recipe to turn it into a complete meal with complex carbs (from the whole grain pasta), fresh vegetables, cheese, and your choice of protein.

Roasted chicken, grilled shrimp or even chickpeas are examples she listed.

READ MORE: 8 healthy habits to adopt in 2016

“It’s colourful and so flavourful. A good
for kids to get involved in as well, choosing their own veggies and protein,” she told Global News.
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Get the full recipe and cooking directions here.

Graphics designed by Ben Simpson/Global News