Derval O'Rourke: Tips for the new school year and an easy lunchbox option

This curried chicken pitta ticks all the boxes — healthy, tasty and quick
Derval O'Rourke: Tips for the new school year and an easy lunchbox option

This week, here are some of my top tips for getting prepared for the new school year. My daughter Dafne is starting senior infants. The summer has just flown by so now is a great time to share simple tips for making the routine to school routine that bit easier. Recipe wise it’s my Curried Chicken Pitta — this makes an easy and quick packed lunch.

September is a great month to get back into healthy routines and start to feel a bit more organised. It’s a month I really enjoy. Now that I have one of my children in school it’s also an exciting month for her to get back to her school friends and her routine.

My top tips for the new school year:

Perfect doesn’t exist

This time last year Dafne was starting school. I had a chat with a friend of mine, she is a primary school teacher, and she said to me ‘Perfect does not exist. There is no perfect parent, child or school. Just go with it and see how she adapts’. That piece of advice was really important for me. Dafne’s first year was quite interrupted due to covid closures and I kept coming back to that line which helped me adapt every time things felt uncertain.


Our household responds so well to having a structure and plan during the school week. Obviously, Covid has made that much harder but I still try to have a good routine. One thing I do every school night is have our family dinner at the same time, 6pm. We also have a bedtime routine that is the same each night. An additional tool I use is a calendar on the wall which marks key days and events so my 6-year-old can look at that and get a sense of what is going on and when.

Simple Packed Lunches

School lunches can be so stressful. I try to get my daughter to pick what will be in her lunch bag. She is much more positive about her school lunch if she has an input into the contents.

These are great options to include in your children’s lunchbox:

  • Yoghurt
  • Fruits and Veggies
  • Sandwiches or pitta pockets with protein source and grated vegetables
  • Energy balls or bars

Be realistic

Every now and then I get a sense of panic that Dafne isn’t doing enough ‘activities’. There is a reality around how many activities kids can do. There is a consideration on price, time commitment etc. Being realistic about what activities I can commit her to and which activities will put us under too much pressure is really important.

Support System

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I’ve always found balancing work and the kids really hard. Adding school into that balance has made it even harder. I’m really fortunate that my Mum can do some school collections and I have a wonderful childminder who is very much part of our family. Take some time to figure out who is there to help because it is so important to share the load where possible.

Curried Chicken Pitta

recipe by:Derval O'Rourke

Sandwiches don’t need to be boring: this is a great option for a work lunch or a super quick lunch at home. It ticks all the boxes — healthy, tasty and quick. I love to use yoghurt as a healthy swap for mayonnaise. This is really mild so it's suitable for

Curried Chicken Pitta



Preparation Time

7 mins

Cooking Time

5 mins

Total Time

12 mins




  • 1 cooked free-range chicken fillet

  • 2 tbsp chopped nuts

  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt

  • 1 tsp curry powder

  • ½ tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tsp turmeric

  • 1 wholemeal pitta

  • 1 small carrot, grated

  • handful of salad leaves


  1. Pop the pitta in the toaster.

  2. While it is toasting, mix the almonds, yoghurt, and spices in a small bowl. Add the cooked chicken and stir well.

  3. Once the pitta is toasted, using a knife split it open and stuff it with the chicken mixture, carrot, and salad leaves.

  4. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

The Wellness Tip

Batch cooking or meal prepping is a great way to eat healthy, tasty meals. Most meals I cook are done in a larger quantity to have on another day. Many meals can stay fresh in an airtight container for 2-3 days and a lot of meals are freezer friendly for 2-3 months.

Movement of the Week

Burpees are great fun plus this full-body movement will help to raise your heart rate. I include them in my HIIT and cardio routine.

I would recommend that beginners consider the following teaching points at the edge of an elevated, fixed surface such as a low stool, coffee table or bench.

Tips on how to perform this exercise include:

  • Standing tall with your hands overhead is the starting position
  • Squat down until your palms reach the floor
  • Draw your legs back and simultaneously bend your elbows until you drop your chest to meet the floor
  • You should be flat on the floor before you push your chest back up off the floor
  • Draw your knees back into your chest and power up through the legs with your hands overhead

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