Back to School Snacks/Balanced Day Canada

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Wow, it’s already the beginning of August but the wheels are starting to turn for Back To School preparation.

The school our young children attend has opted to trial a balanced day “lunch” schedule.  This schedule is new to us and we are unsure how to pack appropriately.  We like cost effective means for lunches (with coupons from Smart Canucks) and also try to send them litter free meals (which isn’t always possible).  Given our children will have 2 X 20 minute nutrition breaks instead of the standard snack, lunch, snack that we grew up with we are worried about not packing them enough or maybe too much.

We  have managed to pick up a sample of a balanced day menu from our local health unit. like this one here.   Some of the things suggested are excellent ideas while some of them (pancakes?) seem like an extra meal after a healthly breakfast at home.  Looks likes it’s trial and error mostly.

Previously you may have noticed that we are very budget conscious so we like healthy cheap snack ideas.  One of the favourites at our house is a “party mix” that my wife makes for her daycare.  It mostly consists of goldfish crackers, raisins, cheerio’s and pretzels.  Since it’s a mix we have often thrown in things like animal crackers, Shreddies, craisins among other things.  It makes so much that it seems to last forever and the kids love it.

Eat Right Ontario has a lot of useful information about what to pack for a balanced day as well and what foods to keep stocked in your pantry, fridge or freezer to be prepared to make healthy school snacks.
Maybe try these fresh tasty ideas for a healthy school snack (or bake sale).

  • Fresh fruit kabobs (For safety reasons use sticks or skewers that aren’t sharp)
  • Oranges wedges, watermelon or grapes
  • Fresh-cut veggies such as grape tomatoes, baby carrots (or cut your own carrot sticks) and celery
  • One bonus suggestion is to add low fat salad dressing to the bottom of the cups for veggies, or low fat yogurt for fruit and keep chilled with an ice pack

Discount Alert!  While researching I was browsing Scholar’s Choice Canada and noticed if you sign up for their e-mail newsletter you get $10 Off Your Next Purchase.  You can sign-up on their website by clicking here.

Please share you healthy budget friendly snack ideas, savings, discounts or experiences!

24 responses to “Back to School Snacks/Balanced Day Canada”

  1. Deb says:

    As a JK teacher I highly recommend these balanced day lunch kits– so easy to organize both snacks and easy for little ones to use– Check them at

  2. Stacey says:

    As a teacher, it’s really not too bad for kids who are in school full-time (balanced day is a little trickier for Kindergarteners who go every other day, as they never really get used to the schedule. You can buy 2 sided balanced day lunch bags if you feel your child needs a little more guidance. It will be a bit of trial and error, as every kid eats differently and some kids eat differently at school than at home. Something like a bagel and some fruit or veggies, or cheese and crackers (preferably real ones) are a great idea for that first lunch. Other families will send two sandwiches, which is OK as well, as long as there aren’t 4 snacks to go with each one. Remember that the idea is not for them to have a “snack” at the first break and a full lunch at the second break. Rather, it’s for them to have two smaller meals throughout the day, which is said to be healthier.

  3. Jen A says:

    It looks to me like the adjusting of the menu they offered really depends on the child’s preferred eating habits. You may have to make the first meal slightly smaller, like just one whole grain pancake, but the gist of it would be to include a carbohydrate, dairy/meat and fruit/veg. The pancake doesn’t seem too out of place with that guideline… just there for some variety.

  4. Sarah says:

    I am a substitute teacher, and I see more and more schools changing to the balanced day lunch systems. I personally am not a fan, because I often see kids eat two full lunches (they have much more time to eat, so they will eat two sets of sandwiches/fruit/yogurts/granola bars/etc). This seems like too many calories, especially if it is not healthy, and especially since most kids also eat breakfast at home and have a snack after school as well. For myself, I find it throws my stomach off, because I don’t feel like eating my main lunch at 11:00, which means I eat a small snack then, but then I have to wait until 1:30 for lunch– at which point I am starving. Some schools still have the regular day: 5 min. snack/15 min recess at 10:30, 20 min lunch/40 min recess at noon, and 5 min snack/15 min recess at 2:00. Makes so much more sense for everyone, I think, but I’m sure this will eventually be gone the way of the dinosaurs.

  5. Lori says:

    When our school changed to the new schedule it was terrible. I used to get lunch at noon and be home with the kids to make lunch for them. After the switch, they didn’t have time to come home for lunch and our breaks didn’t mesh at all. It was a shame since we lived so close to the school.

  6. Eric says:

    Now if that were my daughter’s school, she’d be hungry every “2nd break.” As there are very few things in that entire list she’d eat (quite fussy). Plus, Mac and Cheese by that time would be all cold and rubbery.

    Mind you, if it weren’t for the whole “nut free” environment thing, she’d devour a good old fashioned PB&J every day, swapped with the occasional Garlic fingers from the cafeteria.

  7. amanda says:

    I have never heard of this (probalby because my kids aren’t school aged yet). I think the idea is good. I KNOW that eating more but smaller meals in a day is the best for good health – but let’s face it – our adult lives aren’t set up for this. I tried doing this once (I’m a teacher) but I never have the time during the day to eat 3 ‘small’ meals with only 5 minutes between classes and I have to change classrooms (and there is no food in the classrooms) – IMPOSSIBLE!

    I would love this for my kids if I were able to be on a similar schedule.

    If my older sons school starts this – it will be chaos on the weekend when my hubby and I and my younger son, are used to a typical lunch.

    I am not sure how I feel about this change for kids.

  8. amanda says:

    Interestig thought…

    If your work changed your hour (for example) lunch to two half hour ‘nutrition fuel ups’ would you be happy about it?

    How many of us like to go out for lunch or run errands on our lunch HOUR?

  9. justamy says:

    my son’s school has something *similar* and us parents HATE it!!! it’s called the “morning meal” program. basically, they get a “meal” at 10am…right between breakfast and lunch. a snack is more than suffice but what they are being given is WAY too much. the government subsidizes the program but the parents are left to pay for the rest, which isn’t much ($20 every 3 months) but the kids are being fed utter crap. i can refuse to have my son participate but then he’d be the only one in the class who doesn’t and i don’t want to single my 6 yr old out. argh!

  10. mukluk says:

    Thanks so much for this information! Not only is it useful for the kiddies, but for some of us older folk too. 🙂

    I love the look of the containers in the photo above your post. Any idea where can I get it? I just had gastric bypass surgery 6 weeks ago and also must eat several small meals throughout the day. That container would be perfect for me.

  11. pumper says:

    Wow – finally, no one is complaining about a non-deal related post!!! Kudos!!!

  12. Julie says:

    My son was in JK this past year and his school has the “balanced day”. I usually packed him a sandwich, a drink (for the am break, he has a milk ticket for the afternoon break), fruit (either a fruit cup or fresh fruit), yogurt or a cheese string, and a little treat (pudding, fruit snacks, muffin).

  13. caroman says:

    my kids school is on this program and it works for us. I pack lunches similar to Julie and never have an issue.

  14. Andrea says:

    I’m a teacher and the schools in my board haven’t caught onto this yet; we’re still in the 15 min recess/1 hour break (20 mins lunch + 40 min recess)/15 min recess model (where kids can have snacks at recess). I can see where the new model would benefit some schools and kids, but I think the old model works great for some kids that need more opportunities to snack on something to keep them going throughout the day (my nephews were like this, only two food breaks in a 6 hour school day would’ve killed them).

  15. xxkatiexx says:

    I feel really young saying this (as everyone else is like im a teacher/parent) but I was a kid on the balanced day system back 6 or 7 years ago when it first started and really liked it. Its easier to adjust to than you think.

  16. Angelos says:

    My youngest sister had this when she was in public school and HATED it because she was NEVER EVER hungry during the first nutrition break and was starving by the second so she ate everything my parents packed for her and then she wasn’t hungry for dinner.

  17. dandelion says:

    Very informative…thanks for the ideas!

  18. Tanya says:

    I believe the lunch box pictured is called a Bento box? It’s something I guess the Chinese have used them for years (it helps them keep their fish separated and cold). There are all kinds of designs and different kinds on eBay. Really good prices and cute little shaped containers for kids too! I don’t have kids but have 3 nieces all at different levels in school. they don’t have that program here in NB yet, but I’m sure it’s coming…

  19. Lisa says:

    I’m a supply teacher and love the change. It saves so much time! Parents have no idea how much time is wasted especially in the winter when kids have to come in from outside. Snowpants boots winter coats – it wastes 10 or more mins each time the kids come inside – and the younget they are the worse it is. I also find it also makes the day go faster.I have yet to hear kids complain.

  20. mupiel says:

    @mukluk I just grabbed a random image that looked like a healthy packed lunch! Thanks for the information Tanya.

  21. Carol says:

    our school changed to this 10 years ago and the teachers find the kids pay better attention because they have full bellies throughout more of the day. Also it breaks the day into 3 more equal time slots – and here in Canada only going outside twice (instead of 2 recesses and lunch) saves a lot of time in the winter with snowpants, coats, boots, mittens, etc.

  22. Kathi says:

    There is an entire line of products for this school system! Balanced Day Lunch Kit: There is a great sample menu for an entire month on there!

    • Julie Ann says:

      …poor quality lunch bags though…..I would find another alternitive unless you want to buy another lunch bag part way through the year!


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