Find healthy grab and go food options.

How can my family eat well when we're so busy?

It is possible to fit healthy eating into your and your child’s busy schedule, even when your family is short on time. There are many options that are as quick as they are nutritious. Planning ahead helps make healthy eating easier because:

  • Decisions about what to eat are made ahead of meal or snack time. By planning your child’s meals and snack ideas before they happen, you avoid excess sugar, salt and fat in your choices.
  • You’re more likely to have a variety of nutritious food options on hand.
  • You’ll be able to enjoy a variety of foods using a meal plan and more likely to have them on hand. You can involve your child in planning meals and snacks as well to teach them healthy eating habits.

What are some ideas for readily-available foods to have on hand?

  • Stock up on these staples: eggs, low-fat milk, unsweetened soy milk, low-fat or yogurt, low-fat or partly skimmed cheese, hummus or bean dips, nut butters with no added salt or sugar, unsalted nuts and seeds, cans of tuna or salmon packed in water, fresh, canned or dried unsweetened fruits like apples or bananas and canned chickpeas or black beans.
  • Prepare and keep fresh vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, celery and cherry tomatoes and fruits in see-through containers in the fridge where your child can easily see them.
  • Have 100 per cent whole grain breads, crackers or tortilla wraps on hand.

What are some grab and go breakfast ideas?

Breakfast is important to give your children the needed nutrition boost to start their day. Here are some easy choices:

  • Hard boiled eggs (prepared the night before) with a scoop of guacamole.
  • Fresh fruit or canned unsweetened applesauce or fruit such as peach slices with low-fat yogurt.
  • English muffins or bagels spread with a nut butter.
  • Fruity muesli or overnight oatmeal made the night before for a healthy on-the-go breakfast.
  • Scrambled egg quesadilla is easy to eat on the go. Serve in a napkin for maximum convenience.
  • Apple blueberry smoothies made in the morning or the night before, poured into a travel mug.

What are some lunch ideas?

  • Whole grain pancakes or waffles with fruit and yogurt.
  • Build-your-own pizza with English muffin or pita, tomato sauce, toppings and grated cheese.
  • Falafel or whole wheat pita with veggies.
  • Pasta salad, milk, fruit.
  • Hard cooked egg, whole grain crackers, red pepper strips.
  • Soft taco with bean dip and veggies.
  • Homemade whole grain muffins:
    • Banana bran muffin and cheese.
    • Oatmeal carrot muffin and cottage cheese.
    • Cornmeal muffin with BBQ chicken or chili.
    • Bran muffin with yogurt and veggie sticks.


Finger food and dunking are always fun. Try these combinations for a healthy choice:

  • Hummus, bean, or cottage cheese dip served with assorted veggies and pita bread cut into triangles.
  • Fresh cut fruit and yogurt.
  • French toast with yogurt or applesauce.
  • Whole grain bread sticks with fresh tomato salsa and guacamole.

Wrap or pita pocket combos

Moisten with plain yogurt mixed with salad dressing.

  • Hard cooked egg, chopped cucumber, onion.
  • Chicken chunks, sliced seedless grapes.
  • Turkey or marinated cooked tofu chunks, grated carrot, shredded lettuce.
  • Salmon or tuna or cooked fish, red and green pepper slices.
  • Ricotta cheese, fruit.
  • Chopped ham, pineapple.
  • Hummus and vegetables.
  • Shredded cheese, sliced cucumber.
  • Cheese, lettuce, tomato (wrapped separately).
  • Instead of a tortilla, try a lettuce leaf wrap with any of the above combinations.

Dairy foods and vegetables and fruits can complement your lunch. Milk and dairy products are now included in the protein foods of Canada’s food guide and are an excellent source of calcium .


  • Carrot, celery or bread stick wrapped in cheese.
  • Cored apple filled with cheese chunks.
  • Finely grated cheese rolled into small balls.
  • Chilled milk or fortified soy drink.
  • Milk-based pudding.
  • Yogurt parfait: Layer plain yogurt, fruit and granola or a high fibre cereal.

Veggies and fruit

  • Cauliflower or broccoli florets.
  • Baby corn, fresh sweet radishes.
  • Pepper strips (yellow, green, red, orange).
  • Turnip or zucchini sticks.
  • Peas in a pod or snow pea pods.
  • Cherry tomatoes.
  • Melon balls, cherries, berries.
  • Kiwi, pears, peaches.
  • Papaya, mango.

Packing a safe lunch

  • Use clean kitchen equipment to prepare lunches.
  • Refrigerate lunches that are prepared ahead of time.
  • Use an insulated bag with a freezer pack or chilled thermos to keep food cool.
  • Chill milk or freeze drinking water or juice in plastic containers to keep food cool.
  • Use a wide mouth thermos to keep hot food hot. Preheat the thermos with hot water before filling.
  • Wash all vegetables thoroughly, even those in packages labelled “prewashed.”
  • Wash lunch containers every night to keep bacteria from growing.
  • Don’t reuse plastic bags – they can hold bacteria.

Tips to avoid choking (for pre-schoolers)

  • Soften hard vegetables by cooking them slightly.
  • Grate vegetables such as carrots.
  • Chop fruit into small pieces (even grapes), and be sure to remove large seeds or pits.
  • Cut hot dogs in half lengthwise.
  • Spread nut butters thinly on toast or crackers.
  • Avoid hard or sticky foods like nuts, seeds, popcorn, hard candies, gum.

What are some ideas for after-school snacks?

Most children do need a snack after school to tide them over until the evening meal. Everyone from young children to teens can benefit from a nutritious after-school snack to help keep them energized until supper time. The best snacks are those containing both protein and fibre. Here are some ideas that offer maximum nutrition: