Back-to-school nutrition: Tried and true tips for picky eaters

(Alexes Papadopoli is the Registered Dietitian at Brown’s Your Independent Grocer in Stittsville)

Getting ready for the upcoming school year can be an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming thinking of all the things that need to be prepped and packed-up beforehand. Packing a child’s lunch box can be one of those challenging things, especially if you have a picky eater. Many families struggle with picky eaters, so it’s important to know you’re not alone. It’s very common for children to react negatively to some foods, so it can be hard to find nutritious meals and snacks that will help your child to learn, play and grow.

As your local registered dietitian at Brown’s, Your Independent Grocer, I am here to tell you not to be so hard on yourself. Sometimes children won’t eat a “perfect balance” of nutrients for every meal, but that’s normal! To help your family prepare for the upcoming school year, here is some lunch packing advice.

Don’t worry about redundancy – Your child’s lunchbox doesn’t need to look like a different Pinterest board each day. Focus on varying up one aspect of the lunch – for instance, celery instead of carrots one day – but don’t worry about having a completely different lunch each day. By keeping lunches simple and including items you know your child will enjoy, you can put more time and energy into cooking different nutritious dinners.

Healthy lunches don’t have to be boring – One common misconception is that healthy eating is boring, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Lunches can contain foods that the whole family will enjoy, while also including the nutrients we need to fuel our days. Get creative with your child’s lunch by having them help you cut fruit with a cookie cutter into fun shapes like stars or moons.

Snack time is for everyone, not just kids – Often times parents think their child’s nutrition is different from their own. The good news is adults and children both require the same basic nutrients – proteins, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and fats. Instead of planning different meals for you and your kids, think about meals that the whole family will enjoy. My personal favourite is rice paper fruit wraps or chicken salad rolls, which work perfectly for a snack in the office or at school.

Nutrition isn’t a one-size-fits all approach, so if you’re struggling with your child’s nutrition, I am here to support your family’s unique nutrition journey. As a local Registered Dietitian at Brown’s Your Independent Grocer, I provide a range of services, such as virtual or in-store one-on-one consultations, store tours, and recipe ideas. To discuss further, please feel free to book an appointment with me at

Mango Chicken Mini Pitas


  • Half rib celery, diced
  • 3/4 cup (188 mL) diced cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) jarred mango chutney
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried cherries
  • Pinch (0.5 mL) each salt and black pepper
  • 10 mini whole-wheat pitas (about 2-1/2 inch/6 cm wide pitas)
  • 10 small leaves Boston lettuce


  1. Stir together celery, chicken, yogurt, chutney, cherries, salt and pepper in large bowl.
  2. Make slit along top edge of each pita to open halfway. Line inside of pitas with lettuce and fill
    with chicken mixture, dividing evenly. (TIP: The lettuce acts as a barrier to keep the pita from
    getting soggy, so make sure the entire inner surface of the pita is covered by lettuce.)
  3. Divide and fill up the remaining compartments of your bento boxes with PC® Mini Cucumbers,
    sliced sweet peppers, baby carrots, fresh berries, individually wrapped cheeses, and/or grapes.



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