Back to School Meal Hacks: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

School Day Breakfasts

Raina Beugelink, Registered Nutritionist/Dietitian

When it comes to back-to-school breakfasts, fast and easy is the key. While pop-tarts may technically fulfill both of those criteria, they are not very helpful in any other way. Make sure breakfast is a source of three things: fibre, protein, and healthy fat. Protein and fat are very slowly digested, so they are going to help you and your family feel fuller for longer. High-fibre carbohydrates will give you a surge of energy for the day without the crash and hearing the “I’m hungry” cry in 20 minutes.

Choose from 3-4 foods groups to build a balanced breakfast. Here are some examples of great grab-and-go breakfasts that can be prepped ahead of time:

  • Egg Muffins: Whisk eggs together with cheese and finely chopped veggies and bake in muffin tins. Serve with toast and with a piece of fruit.
  • Baked Oatmeal: This can be made ahead of time and frozen in individual squares. Experiment with flavours like dark chocolate and raspberry, peanut butter and banana, carrot cake, or apple and cinnamon. Pair with a hard-boiled egg, and you’re out the door. (Try our favourite versions!)
  • Slow Cooker Oatmeal or Overnight Oats: Both are ready to go first thing in the morning. Top with fresh fruit.
  • Greek Yogurt Parfait: Layer frozen berries, Greek yogurt, and granola in mason jars or Tupperware. They’ll be ready for the table first thing in the morning and the kids can help prepare them the night before.
  • Banana Nut Butter Roll-up: Spread nut butter in whole grain wraps and place banana in the center. Roll up like a burrito. If the kids can’t have peanut butter at school, this is a great time to put this in for breakfast.


School Day Lunches

Susan Sommerville – Registered Nutritionist/Dietitian

Back-to-school season can be an overwhelming time, and school lunches can feel like just another thing on the list that needs to be ready daily. The key is mapping out your meal plan for lunches ahead of time!

Leftovers and Homemade Freezer Meals

In my opinion, if there is access to a microwave at school, leftovers from supper the night before are the easiest option. After supper, grab a container and fill it with leftovers. Add extra cut up veggies if there are not enough vegetables left over from supper.

If there are never leftovers after supper in your family, the next best thing that works for me is to batch cook homemade “frozen dinner” individual meals that can be packed into a lunch kit. Soups, stews, chilis and pasta sauces work great for this! The nice thing about the homemade frozen meals is that they double as a freezer pack to keep the rest of the items (e.g. yogurt, fruit, cut up veggies, etc.) in your lunch bag cool.

Balanced School Lunch Options

If you find yourself needing to throw together a quick lunch meal, here are a few balanced convenient options:

  • Tasty Pinwheels: Shredded rotisserie chicken or canned flaked tuna salad (with mayo or mashed avocado) wrapped with lettuce or chopped celery into a tortilla, and sliced into pinwheels disks. Garnish with cherry tomatoes or other veggies.
  • Protein Bistro Box: Throw together a mini hummus with a bag of cut veggies, boiled eggs, a babybel cheese, crackers and grapes or other fruit!
  • Banana Roll-up: Spread sunflower seed or pumpkin seed butter on a whole grain tortilla and sprinkle with cinnamon and hemp hearts. Stick a banana on one end and roll the banana up in the middle. Toss in a bag of fresh vegetables and an individual Greek yogurt to round off the lunch box!


School Day Dinner

Kalin Herbach – Registered Nutritionst/Dietitian

The arrival of slightly-crisper-than-normal mornings and the yellow tinge on trees can only mean one thing: back to school! Here are a few supper tips to prevent the typical fast food runs that tends to sneak in with jam-packed schedules. These will leave you feeling happy about what you are offering your family, and your kids will have full tummies to fuel their evening activities.

Batch Cooking

Although batch cooking isn’t for everyone, this can be a great strategy to ensure you get a healthy meal on the table in a quick amount of time. Plan one or two days of the week that it works to cook, and find staple one-pot meals that you and your family enjoy. During the fall and winter, soups and stews work really well. If your family doesn’t like eating the same thing for more than one or two meals, freeze the rest in individual containers to pull out for last-minute situations. Make sure you label what the meal is, as well as the date that you made it. This will help to keep your freezer organized and will prevent home-cooked meals from going to waste. You can also use supper leftovers for lunches!

Homemade Instant Freezer Meals

Another option similar to batch cooking is homemade instant freezer meals. Making these meals is a great idea if you’re not a fan of leftovers and prefer meals that are cooked the day of. For these meals, simply prep the ingredients of a regular recipe raw and freeze the mixture. This cuts down on time by splitting up your prep and cooking into separate days. Simply pull out the pre-prepped ingredients on the day you want to use them and let them thaw ahead of time.

Using the Slow Cooker

One word: slow cooker. These things can be a life saver, as you can put everything in and let it cook throughout the day. Keep in mind that slow cooker meals work best when you are only out of the house for 4-7 hours. If you know that you are going to be out of the house longer, you may end up with an overcooked, mushy meal. If you have long days, save slow cooker meals for weekends!

Bring in the Family

Lastly, for all of your meal prep, get the family involved! Of course you won’t let your little ones do the chopping, but they can definitely rip lettuce into pieces for a salad. It makes meal prep more fun for you and teaches your kids some basics in the kitchen!