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9 Tips to Ease the Stress of Back to School Lunches

08/27/2015 12:59 EDT | Updated 08/27/2016 05:59 EDT

Ask any parent and they will say making lunches is one of the most dreaded parts of the day. Being creative and offering healthy options their kids will actually eat is a challenge we all face during the school year. I've learned to avoid the dread by keeping my fridge and pantry well stocked and following these easy tips for creating healthy lunches kids will actually eat.

1. Pack what you're taking to work. This is an extension of my one-meal-three-ways philosophy, which involves creating one meal that can accommodate adults, kids and babies. It's a lot easier to pack school lunches while packing your own (especially when packing leftovers.)

2. Get your kids involved in packing their own lunch. I find when kids become more engaged in what they are eating they are more opt to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Cut fresh fruit and have the kids place on skewers, or have them spread the butter on the bread. Whatever the task, giving them a little responsibility makes them involved.

3. When uninspired, use finger foods! Finger Food Friday is a huge hit with my kids and gives me a break at the end of a long week. It can be carrot sticks with hummus, celery with cream cheese, fruit with yogurt dip or salami and cheese with crackers. The idea is a snack tray for lunch.

4. Themes. I discovered the fun in themes while packing Sunday's leftover veggie quiche. I decided to go with a French theme and tore off a piece of baguette, added a slice of Brie, a cluster of grapes and a piece of chocolate. Voila!

5. Breakfast for lunch. I'll pack an individual yogurt with granola, fruit and a hard-boiled egg. I've even scrambled eggs and bacon and put them in a Thermos.

6. Pack a Thermos. Leftovers are truly the easiest, no-brainer lunch to pack. I always try to make extras for lunch. If your kids are opposed to leftovers (some really do not want what they had the night before), freeze the leftovers in a single serve container and use for another day. My freezer is stocked with leftovers, which I thaw the morning before school, heat and pop in a Thermos.

7. Batch baking. Sunday mornings, I like to make a couple dozen of the kids' favourite muffins or cookies to put in the freezer for lunches. I put one in every other day for their morning snack.

8. Plan ahead. I know it sounds like it defeats the purpose of an easy tip list when I recommend planning ahead but in reality thinking about lunches on Sunday actually alleviates the stress. Stock up on lunch friendly foods on your regular grocery shop, make extra dinner with the thoughts of using leftovers and ask kids ahead what they would like in their lunch (besides treats).

9. More is more! While less is usually more, when it comes to packing my kids lunches, I am of the philosophy of "more is more." They go through sporadic growth spurts and I always ensure that they have enough food for the day. Throw in an extra apple, granola bar or bag of cut veggies if you notice your child is demolishing their lunch every day.

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