Aliments pour les lunchs

Optimizing lunches: when simplicity, health and safety come together!

21 January 2023

It can be challenging to prepare healthy lunches while being quick and efficient during busy mornings. That's why we offer you ideas for foods for nutritious and simple lunches. We also provide tips to keep your lunches fresh in your bag for safe eating!

To help you build nutritious meals, you can consider the image of the plate from the new Canadian Food Guide. It provides a good reference for meal preparation. For children's lunches, you can divide the plate into three parts: half of the plate for vegetables, a quarter for grains, and another quarter for protein-rich foods. The rest of the meal can be accompanied by dairy products and fruits. Choosing foods with plenty of fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.) minimizes the impact of energy loss that sometimes occurs after lunch.

Canadian Food Guide

Fruits and Vegetables

Children and adolescents need 4 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A handy tip to estimate servings is to use your hand. The size of your fist is approximately one serving.

Ideas for fruits and vegetables in lunches:

  • Ready-to-go or easy-to-cut raw vegetables (baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery)
  • Vegetable juices
  • Unsweetened fruit juices
  • Unsweetened fruit compotes
  • Fresh fruits (strawberries, apples, peaches, grapes, etc.)
  • Fruit salad (can also be made with frozen fruits)


Children and adolescents need an average of 3 to 7 servings of grain products per day. One slice of bread is equivalent to one serving, so a sandwich is equivalent to 2 servings! Whenever possible, choose whole grain products that offer more fiber, minerals, vitamins, and flavor.

Ideas for grain products in lunches:

  • Various bread options for sandwiches: multigrain, pitas, tortillas, English muffins, etc.
  • Quinoa salads
  • Rice or couscous to accompany your protein
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Granola bars (ideally with at least 2g of fiber and no more than 12g of sugar)
  • Homemade muffins (always better when homemade!)
  • Oatmeal cookies

Dairy Products

It is recommended that children and adolescents consume 2 to 4 servings of dairy products daily. These foods complement lunch meals wonderfully and make nourishing snacks.

Ideas for dairy products in lunches:

  • Yogurt (drinkable or in containers)
  • Single-serving soy beverage
  • Single-serving cheese
  • Cheese spread on bread
  • Homemade pudding made with milk or yogurt (rice pudding, chia pudding, etc.)
  • Homemade dip made from Greek yogurt

Meat and Substitutes

Meat and substitutes are a rich source of protein and are essential for children's growth! This food group helps to stay focused and full of energy throughout the day. Children and adolescents should consume 1 to 3 servings of meat and substitutes daily.

Ideas for meat and substitutes in lunches:

  • Sliced ham, turkey, or chicken
  • Chicken salad
  • Smoked salmon
  • Canned tuna
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Legume salad
  • Hummus (chickpea puree)

You can also cook a larger quantity of protein during dinner and transform it into another meal for the next day's lunch. For example, your chicken can become a club sandwich or your pork roast can turn into a salad!

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Safe Lunches

The basic rule is simple: cold foods must stay cold, and hot foods must stay hot! To keep your cold foods fresh, place them in an insulated lunch box with an ice pack. For hot foods, if microwaves are not available at school, thermoses are very convenient. Thermoses allow you to diversify your lunches.

Plastic containers placed in the microwave can eventually release tiny amounts of BPA and phthalates, especially when they contain fatty foods. Therefore, choose microwave-safe plastic containers or opt for other options like glass containers. It is also advisable not to use old plastic containers like those from yogurt or margarine. Used and damaged containers may release more substances when microwaved.

It is important to wash the lunch box regularly to prevent the accumulation of bacteria. You can choose a lunch box that is dishwasher-safe. It's convenient and effective!

At the end of the day, lunch leftovers do not need to be automatically thrown away. Fruits and vegetables can be reused for soups and compotes, for example. Leftover cheese and yogurt can also be incorporated into cooked recipes. Cooking will destroy any potential bacteria. However, leftovers of meat, fish, legumes, eggs, or dishes containing mayonnaise should be discarded.

Now you are ready to face the back-to-school season with healthy, simple, and delicious lunches!!

References used for writing this article:

Bourassa, M. (December 3, 2020). What is a child's serving size? Maman pour la vie.

Government of Canada. (August 6, 2022). Canadian Food Guide. Government of Canada.

Legault, J. (August 25, 2019). Back to school with simple, nutritious, and safe lunches. LaPresse.

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