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Here are five tips to help you make school lunches that don’t suck

Beat the brown bag blues: Our nutritionist weighs in with five school lunch tips
School lunches don’t have to suck and they don’t have to drive you nuts. Nutritionist Ashley Hurley offers a few tips to keep your kids happy (and you, sane) when it comes to school lunches. 

School is back and so am I! After taking a (long) break from writing, I’m back just in time to keep you from getting the brown bag blues. 

Here are five things you need to know to keep lunch packing pleasant:

ASK FOR HELP Healthy eating is everybody’s job. Get the kids involved now so you’re not still packing their lunch in college. Your future self will thank you for it. Depending on their age and kitchen confidence, give them guidance with specific tasks (put 10 grapes in this container) or criteria (choose a vegetable that is green and rinse it).

COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE Leftovers are time, budget, and environment friendly. If leftovers are a tough sell in your house, make them look like something else. An optical illusion of sorts — but tastier. For example, turn leftover veggies into an omelet or add leftover grains to a salad.

FAILING TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL What’s your go-to when you’re throwing things into lunch bags three minutes before the bus comes? My usual is a five dollar bill. However, with a little planning this crisis can be averted. This looks different for everyone. Some people were born to plan. They have fancy charts and pointy pencils and get a rush from cranking out seven-day menus. Others find a 24-hour plan more manageable. Do what’s right for you.

MULTITASK Do you try to pack lunches when you have morning brain? Do you try to do it right before you head to bed? Consider packing lunches at supper while you’re already in the kitchen. A watched pot never boils so while you’re waiting, rinse and chop veggies for the next day. When you’re cleaning up from supper, pack up those leftovers and put them straight into the lunch bags.

BE FLEXIBLE AND FUN When we take healthy eating too seriously, we take all the fun out of it. When time allows, make ants on a log or orange smiles. Balance those healthy choices with some “extras” once in a while. Extras are foods that don’t fit into the four food groups. You can add non-food fun like stickers or themed napkins as well.

As always, there’s no right way or best way—you’ll find your way. Luckily, you’ve got 200 school days to practice!

Ashley Hurley is a Registered Dietitian at City of Lakes Family Health Team in Sudbury, ON. Do you have questions about nutrition and healthy eating? Visit to email a dietitian for free!