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The stress-free lunch box: Preparation can be as quick as pick four ingredients and go

The stress-free lunch box

It's almost time for the kids to go back to school – which means parents are back to scrambling for lunch ideas. Emma Waverman offers her pantry list and last-minute tips, with a little help from Leslie Beck

'There is no way around the drudgery of making lunch," Emma Waverman, a mother of two, says. Her goal is to make the process a no-brainer by stocking her pantry with grab-and-go items. Here are Waverman's must-have basics, with commentary by nutritional counsellor Leslie Beck.

For Beck, a balanced lunch is one that provides carbohydrates, protein, healthy fat and fluid. "These help sustain a kids' energy levels so they have the fuel they need to concentrate in the classroom and be active in gym class and sports," she explains.

Pick a carbohydrate: "Carbohydrates don't always have to come from sandwich bread or wraps. Crackers, pasta, noodle soups, homemade muffins, fruit provide carbs, too. Make sure school lunches include fruit and bite-sized veggies (e.g. cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, red pepper strips, cucumber coins)."

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From the pantry

Noodles, crackers, mini pitas, rice cakes

Noodles, crackers, mini pitas, rice cakes. Also consider: Egg noodles (for soup), macaroni and cheese, instant ramen.

From the fridge

Pre-cut carrots, celery, peppers in a bowl of water, grapes, cherry tomatoes.

From the freezer

Bagels (pre-sliced), mini pizzas, perogies, bread (sliced or baguette). Also consider: wontons (for soup).

Pick a protein: "Protein options include turkey, chicken strips, hard-boiled eggs, tuna, cheese, edamame, roasted chickpeas and Greek yogurt."

From the pantry

Sunflower seeds, dried fruit, dates, chocolate chips for homemade nut-free trail mix; beef jerky, roasted chickpeas (homemade or purchased).

From the fridge or freezer

Cheese/cheese sticks, cold cuts, cream cheese, edamame. Also consider: pepperoni sticks.

Pick a healthy fat: "Including some fat with lunch helps satiate kids; sunflower seeds in a homemade trail mix, and guacamole for veggie chips all count."

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From the pantry

Chicken stock, dips (hummous, ranch).

Pick a snack: "Resist the urge to pack a sugary treat every day; save it for once a week."

Popcorn, pretzels, seaweed, cookies. Also consider: cereal.


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