Once again, summer has flown by – welcome back to school! Do I hear a sigh of relief from the moms?! Other than the fact that you are now stuck making the dreaded school lunch for the next 10 months. I totally understand ……after putting dinner on the table for 6 people and cleaning up, I don’t have the energy or time to spend make Pinterest-worthy school lunches either!

Your child spends half of their waking hours in school, which is why nutritious school lunches are so important to keep them fueled. And while it’s much easier to throw in pre-packaged snacks and meals, it’s important to skip a lunch box full of processed food. Not only is homemade food better for your wallet and the environment, but is more nutrient-dense for your child.

If you cringe at the thought of making hand-crafted school lunches, here are three tips to make it easier:

  1. Don’t wait until the morning rush to throw lunches together. Prep school lunches before even tidying up from dinner. The food is still out (hello leftovers for lunch!), and you won’t have to clean up twice. You’ll also save yourself from a bit of the morning chaos. Heaven knows there’s already enough of that going on, just trying to get the kids out the door!
  2. This may sound obvious, but get your child to make their own lunch. I know, I know, it may be easier to make the lunch yourself, rather than nag your child 15 times. But it’s worth it! Your child is learning some skills in the kitchen. Plus, they can’t really complain about a lunch they made themselves, right?! Even my kindergartener could make her lunch last year, with very little help. Put together some guidelines for what to include in the lunch box and let them have control. For example: 1 fruit or veggie + one yogurt or cheese +1 muffin or cookie + leftovers or sandwich.
  3. Speaking of leftovers or sandwich, my kids prefer leftovers. And I agree, as leftovers are usually easier, tastier and likely more nutritious than a sandwich. To make the main course of school lunches easier, invest in a few thermoses. Some dishes can be warmed up in the morning and added into your child’s thermos. Soup, any pasta, casserole or chili make a great hot leftover lunch. Other leftovers are great cold (think pizza, or pasta salads), including the Curry Chickpea Pasta Salad recipe below.

This pasta salad recipe makes a great dinner, and is also large enough for leftover lunches for most families. The chickpeas and cottage cheese supply protein to keep your child feeling full and growing strong. And I’m pretty sure all kids love pasta, and moms will appreciate that the recipe contains all 4 food groups! Give it a try, and feel free to share your favourite school lunch tip or recipe below.

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Written by a Registered Dietitian.

Curry Chickpea Pasta Salad
Prep Time
20 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes


10 oz (300 g) whole wheat fusilli, small shells, or other small pasta
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1- 1 1/2 tsp (5-7 ml) curry powder
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) pepper
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) plain yogurt
zest of 1 lime
2 tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) drained, rinced, cooked or canned chickpeas
1 apple, chopped
1 small sweet red pepper, chopped
1/4 English cucumber, chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) raisins


  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta for about 8 minutes or according to package directions, until tender but firsm. Drain and rince under cold water. Drain well.
  2. In a small skillet or saucepan, heat over medium-low heat; sautee garlic for 1 minute or until softened and fragrant. Stir in curry powder; remove from heat and let cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together salt, pepper, yogurt, lime zest, and 1 tbsp (15 ml) of lime juice. Scrape curry mixture into bowl and whisk to combine.
  4. Add pasta, chickpeas, apple, red pepper, cucumber, and raisins to yogurt mixture and toss gently to coat. Taste and add more lime juice, as desired.
  5. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.