It’s not easy balancing a full-time job and making meals for the little ones in your life. Now that school is back in full swing, we asked two very busy culinary professionals for their school-time meal insights that will hopefully help make your life a little easier!

Chef Thomas Neukom, The Lake House

Long-time chef for Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts, Thomas Neukom spends a good chunk of his week cooking with beautiful Alberta-grown ingredients at The Lake House in Lake Bonavista. With two growing children at home, it’s apparent the chef wants to make sure his young ones grow up enjoying food and caring about the ingredients they’re eating just as much as he does!

Tips from Chef Neukom:

We always make sure there are fresh fruits and vegetables in our kids’ lunches and try to incorporate what’s in season. We try to make lunches the night before and have everything ready in the morning. This seems the easiest way to deal with it. Sometimes in the morning, my coffee is more on my mind than school lunches!

We have our kids involved in lunch preparation, and let them pack some goodies from the store they picked themselves and might not have had before.

Sometimes, you’ll put a lot of effort into their lunches and they don’t eat half of it. If the answer you get is “I wasn’t hungry,” there’s not much you can do about that. Kids are funny that way. “Compensate” at dinner with a homemade meal using fresh produce and products. Make sure they get a good breakfast before they leave the house and have a healthy dinner.

Norma Jean Salimaki, Events Manager, The Block Kitchen and Bar

As a mother of four, it goes without saying that Norma Jean Salimaki has her work/life balancing act down to a ‘t.’ While running The Block, a busy restaurant and bar on 4 Street NW, she still takes time to make sure her kids are engaged and eager to eat a meal, whether in the morning before they head off to school or when the lunch bell rings and they’re opening up their school lunch.

Tips from Norma Jean:

A fruit that makes for a great, year-round snack…I always include a banana. It’s easy for my kids to eat while racing out to play at lunchtime. I take the kids grocery shopping with me; they love searching the Internet for new recipe ideas. A favourite is trying different kinds of mustards on fresh bakery buns with various meats. Finnish Mustard is their go-to now!

I have to menu plan and try to theme each week: ham week, chicken week, etc. Once we choose the flavour, the boys assist with an idea for each of the four days. I buy fruit, vegetables and cheese for quick snacks. Friday is always a half day so they are home early to fend for themselves!

I like to find their favourite” fruits. I did a big apple tasting one weekend. I bought one of every apple variety and then we rated them in crunch, juiciness and overall taste. Now I know the top three apples to buy and I never find them in the bottom of their kit bags anymore. Ha, ha!

Sometimes we let our daughters make their own lunches, and it’s funny to see what’s important to them. It’s not the lunch – it’s the snacks. So, if you want to make sure your kids eat their lunch – let them pack their own.

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