Making lunches 180 days a year can be a real headache. For parents in need of inspiration, here are six easy and clever tips to help lighten the burden.

1. Make lunch as a family

Want to introduce your kids to cooking? Ask them what they would like to eat, then before starting prep work, assign them tasks. The youngest can clean fruits and veggies or fill lunch bags, while older kids can chop vegetables and put together muffin mixes. Involving your kids is an excellent way of finding out their preferences and making them aware of the importance of healthy eating. Also, they won’t be able to complain if they don’t like their lunches…

2. Get ahead

Mornings can be turbulent for families, so it’s important to plan lunches in advance as much as possible. Draw up a menu before your weekend run to the grocery store. Prepare cut-up raw vegetables for each day of the week and store them in the fridge in an airtight container. Certain fruits like melon can be cut up ahead of time, and snacks can be divvied up in advance. With a little organization the night before, you’ll avoid a race against the clock the next morning.

3. Cook larger portions

Making double the recipe when preparing evening meals will provide you with leftovers that make good lunches the next day. If re-heated meals are not all that popular with your family, it’s time to get inventive! Turn a pasta dish into a salad, or make a fun sandwich out of leftover meat or other protein. Divide up leftovers right away so you’ll be sure to have something to munch on come mealtime tomorrow.

4. Balance meals

Your child’s lunchbox should contain items from the four food groups listed in the Canada Food Guide (fruits and vegetables, grain products, milk and milk substitutes, meat and meat substitutes). Morning and afternoon snacks will allow you to supplement their lunches and optimize your kids’ nutrition throughout the day. Try to alternate animal proteins with vegetable proteins and replace sweetened drinks with water, vegetable juice or other liquids that contain less sugar.

5. Vary the menu

Avoid boring your kids by changing up their midday meal. By including a variety of flavours and textures, youll pique their curiosity and ensure your young ones stay interested. Switch between hot and cold meals, or surprise them with a small sweet treat every now and then to shake up their routine. That said, dont be overly concerned if your child ends up having the same thing two days in a row!

6. Keep their lunchboxes clean

Cleaning your childs lunchbox at the end of every school week allows everyone to start fresh on Monday morning. All you have to do is moisten a Cascades Tuff®paper towel with soapy water and wipe the inside of the bag. This will avoid the proliferation of bacteria and unwanted odours. You could also consider leaving a folded paper towel inside their lunchbox, so your child is ready to handle any unexpected messes.