Back to school recipes

It’s hard to believe students are back to school already! To make sure you and your family are organized for lunch planning for the new school year, we asked University Health Network registered dietitians Fatim Ajwani, Julie Statler and Anna Richardson for their favourite lunch recipes.

Fatim’s picks

Fatim Ajwani, Registered Dietitian, Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program, Toronto Rehab. (Photo courtesy: Fatim Ajwani)

Chickpea salad

This healthy and easy-to-make chickpea salad is loaded with flavour and nutrients – chickpeas are a legume and are a great source of protein and fibre. It’s a perfect addition to your next lunch as a main or side dish. Get creative with this salad and add your own favourite ingredients! You could try it with olives, feta cheese or even add a grain such as quinoa or couscous for a well-balanced lunch.

Photo via SkinnyTaste

Yields: 4 servings


  • 1 can low sodium chickpeas, drained
  • 3/4 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro or fresh parsley (or a combination of both), minced
  • Optional: 1 avocado, cubed


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2  tsp lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl
  • Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl
  • Add dressing to salad  and toss well
  • Will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge

No-bake granola bites

Add these delicious no-bake granola bites to your next lunch. Dates will be your main ingredient – a good source of fiber and a natural sweetener.

Recipe via the cookbook Food sense: healthy cooking on a budget

Tip: Freeze any leftover bites for a healthy on-the-go snack.

Yields: 15 servings (serving size: 2 bites)


  • 1 3/4 cups packed dates, pitted
  • 1 1/2 cups large flake oats
  • 1/3 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower or soy butter
  • 2 tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, semi-sweet or dark chocolate


  • Line a shallow 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, set aside
  • In a small bowl, soften dates by covering with very hot tap water and soaking for 15 minutes
  • In a large bowl, combine oats and sunflower seeds
  • Drain dates and discard water
  • Add drained dates to a blender or food processor. Pulse dates, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula as needed, until broken down and few chunks remain. If difficult to break down, add 1-2 tbsp hot water and continue pulsing.
  • Add dates to the oat mixture. Using your hands, break down the dates so they mix evenly throughout the other ingredients.
  • In a microwave-safe bowl, add sunflower or soy butter, honey (if using) and stir. Tip: to prevent honey and sunflower or soy butter from sticking, lightly oil the measuring cup/spoon first. Microwave on high for 25 seconds. Stir and immediately pour over the oat-date mixture. Stir quickly to evenly coat using a wooden spoon. Fold in chocolate chips and continue to mix.
  • Transfer mixture to the pan and using another piece of parchment paper, spread the mixture evenly into the corners. To ensure the mixture binds together, pack firmly into the pan until level.
  • Place in freezer for 30 minutes
  • Lift the entire square out of the pan by the parchment. Using a sharp knife, cut into 36 bite-sized pieces (6 by 6).
  • Store in the fridge in an air-tight container

Julie’s pick

Julie Statler, Registered Dietitian, Transplant Inpatient Unit, Ajmera Transplant Centre, Toronto General Hospital. (Photo courtesy: Julie Statler)

Homemade tzatziki sauce

Made with a few simple ingredients, this delicious homemade tzatziki sauce is versatile as a spread on a Greek-style sandwich or as a dip. A perfect combination with pita, crackers or raw vegetables.

Recipe adapted via The Wanderlust Kitchen

Yields: 2 cups


  • 1/2 large cucumber, unpeeled
  • 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (Julie suggests 2 per cent M.F. but any will work)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped


  • Grate cucumber and drain through a fine strainer. Gently press the cucumber in the strainer to remove more of the liquid.
  • In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and salt
  • Add grated cucumber and dill to the yogurt mixture and stir to combine
  • Before serving, chill for a few hours or overnight. Can be stored, covered and in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Anna’s pick

Anna Richardson, Registered Dietitian, Nephrology, Toronto General Hospital. (Photo courtesy: Anna Richardson)

Chopped Thai salad with sesame garlic dressing

This chopped Thai salad is a breeze to prepare! Easily customizable with your favourite vegetable ingredients and topped with flavourful sesame garlic dressing, it’s guaranteed to become a staple in your work or school lunch repertoire.

“The salad will stay fresh longer if you store the dressing separately from the salad ingredients, tossing them together just before serving. Agave nectar or sugar would work in place of the honey for vegans. Those three cloves of garlic pack a spicy garlicky punch, so if you don’t love garlic, use less.” – Anna

Recipe modified via Pinch of Yum


For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp white distilled vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sliced fresh ginger (or 1/4 tsp powdered ginger)
  • a squeeze of lime juice

For the salad:

  • 16 oz frozen shelled edamame
  • 5–6 cups baby kale or pre-sliced coleslaw mix
  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 3 green onions


  • Puree all the dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust to fit your preferences. Transfer to a dressing jar and rinse the food processor out for use later.
  • Cook the edamame by boiling it for 3-5 minutes in a pot of boiling water. Drain and allow it to cool. Meanwhile, slice up the kale, carrots, peppers, cilantro leaves and green onions into thin strips or shreds.
  • Place the cooked edamame in the food processor and pulse 5 times to get a minced texture and transfer to a bowl. Toss the kale, carrots, peppers, cilantro, green onions, edamame and cashews together until well combined. Drizzle with the dressing, toss gently a few times and serve immediately.

Which back to school recipe was your favourite? Take a picture of your lunch and tag us on social media @UHNfoundation.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing on our site, you accept use of cookies. For more information, please visit our privacy policy.


Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Instagram YouTube