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Tips for Lunch Packers

From :  Calgary Health Services, Nutrition Division 228-7420      (10/93). Used with permission.

Looking for new ideas to add some life to your lunch?  The key is to choose a variety of's your key to good nutrition as well!  Try to include something from each of the following four food groups from Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating:  Grain Products, Vegetables and Fruit, Milk products, Meat and Alternatives.

Examples from each of the foods groups are listed below.  Try to follow the tips in each food group for healthy eating.

Grain products
Choose whole grain
and enriched products
more often


Vegetables and fruit
Choose dark green
and orange vegetables
and orange fruit
more often


Milk Products
Choose lower-fat
milk products
more often


Meat and Alternatives
Choose leaner meats,
poultry and fish,
as well as dried
peas, beans and
lentils more often


  • bread

  • -whole-wheat, rye, -pumpernickel, oatmeal 
    -raisin, fruit 
  • buns
  • bagel
  • pita
  • tortilla
  • bannock
  • english muffin
  • whole grain or fruit, muffin
  • pancakes
  • rice cakes
  • crackers
  • graham wafers
  • bread sticks
  • noodles/pasta
  • rice
  • cereals - hot or cold





  • fresh fruit in season: 

  • - apple, orange, banana 
    -cantaloupe, grapes, pear, plum 
  • canned fruit:

  • -applesauce, peaches, pears, pineapple 
  • vegetables - raw or cooked:

  • - carrot, celery or turnip sticks 
    -broccoli or cauliflower florets 
    -mushrooms, cherry tomatoes 
    -green pepper strips 
    -cucumber or zucchini slices 
    -radishes, onion 
    -lettuce, alfalfa sprouts 
  • dried fruit:

  • -raisins, apricots 
  • fruit or vegetable juice

  • milk:

  • -white or chocolate 
  • cheese:

  • -slices, grated, cubed 
    -processed slices 
    -cottage cheese
  • yogurt

  • -plain 
    -with fruit added 
  • soups made with milk
  • milk puddings, tapioca 





  • meats:

  • -roast beef, pork, ham, lamb, meatloaf, wild game, luncheon meat 
  • poultry

  • chicken, turkey 
  • fish:

  • -canned tuna or salmon 
  • hard boiled egg
  • tofu
  • cooked dried peas, beans, lentils:

  • -split pea soup, baked beans, hummus, lentil casseroles 
  • nuts or seeds -plain, roasted or ground,  e.g., peanut butter 






Other Foods
Other foods and beverages that don't belong to one of the four food groups can add variety, taste and enjoyment to your meal.  Examples are margarine, mustard, relishes, mayonnaise, salad dressings and so on.  Some of these foods are higher in fat and/or calories, so use them less often.

Helpful Hints

  • Leftovers such as soup, stew, spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese, etc. can be frozen in small containers for use in lunches.
  • Try wrapping lettuce wedges and other raw vegetables separately or placing them in their own containers to keep them fresh and crisp.
  • Make everything as easy to eat as possible:  cut a tomato into wedges, an orange into quarters, celery, carrots and turnips into sticks, cucumber or zucchini into slices, etc.
  • Stock a selection of single-serving foods in easy-open or pull-top cans for emergency use.  They go from the cupboard to the lunch box with no wrapping needed and can be eaten directly from the can.  Choose from a variety of fruits and juices, baked beans, spaghetti with ground beef, several flavours of puddings and many other foods which are available in individual containers.
  • When serving a raw fruit or vegetable, be sure they are thoroughly washed.
  • Include a napkin; also a spoon or crackers when necessary.
  • Don't forget to include a toothbrush (wrapped separately) and tooth paste in the bag or box.

Tips for Children's Lunches

  • Encourage children to help in the preparation of their own lunches, i.e., washing fruit.
  • Cut sandwiches small for smaller children.  Surprise them with sandwiches cut in distinctive shapes such as triangles, rectangles or stripes.
  • Try crunchy ingredients in a filling such as celery or peanuts.
  • When a beverage is given, a straw might be included.
  • Arrange food in an attractive manner in the lunch box or bag.  Place heavy items in the bottom and lighter or crushable items on top.  If possible, arrange in such a manner that, at a glance, the child can see everything.
  • Include a colourful item such as a napkin, a brightly coloured fruit or vegetable.
  • Frequently place a surprise in the lunch box - a picture, a joke, a puzzle (depending on the child's age) or an item to use at school such as an eraser or pencil.

Food Safety
Keep these food safety tips in mind to ensure that your lunch doesn't spoil:

Keep cold foods cold:

  • Carry already chilled foods in an insulated lunch box or bag.
  • Freeze your sandwich before packing it.   Sandwiches made with peanut butter, sliced meat or poultry or those sandwiches made with mixtures that do no contain mayonnaise or hard cooked eggs freeze best.  Pack the lettuce and tomatoes separately, and add them to your sandwich at lunchtime.
  • Include a frozen ice pack or juice box.

Keep hot foods hot:

  • Preheat a vacuum bottle - fill with hot water and let stand a minute or two.  Empty and refill right away with hot food.

Sample Lunch Packs

tortilla served with mashed kidney beans and salsa
orange wedges
sliced chicken & sprouts in a bun 
cherry tomatoes
ham & cheese on rye bread
unsweetened pineapple tidbits
plain yogourt
egg filling in a bagel
carrot & celery sticks
hummus with pita bread
cucumber sticks
unsweetened peaches
plain yogurt
spaghetti with meat & tomato sauce
mozzarella cheese cubes
green pepper strips
unsweetened fruit juice
green split pea  soup
breadsticks or crackers
cheddar cheese slices
apple wedges
lentil-rice casserole
tomato juice
milk pudding

NOTE:  If no fluids are mentioned in the lunch, water should be provided.  Remember to use insulated bottles when necessary to keep hot foods hot and cold food cold.

Terms of Use: The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is for your general information only. We cannot be held responsible for anything you could possibly do or say because of information on this site.   Consult your family physician or allergist for specific questions or concerns. 


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