As parents, we are constantly looking out for our kids and doing our utmost to ensure that they are growing up healthy and happy. One of our neverending challenges is making sure that they eat a healthy diet with a good mix of foods, especially at school. Learning requires both energy and concentration, so sending our kids off to school with a nutritious lunchbox (that they also want to eat!) is important in helping them to achieve their best.
Making the food tasty, fun and easy to eat will normally guarantee they bring their lunchbox home empty – job done! The plan definitely isn’t fool proof as children tend to want to share or swap their food on occasion, but if their lunchbox looks the best why would they want to trade down!
Striking the right balance isn’t always easy, especially with fussy eaters and allergy sufferers, but hopefully some of these ideas will help next time you are looking for inspiration.
Sweet flavours can be easily added to our kid’s lunchboxes without breaching the sugar or fat rules with something as simple as a fruit salad. Use whatever fruit is in season and try to include as many different colours as possible, its looks great and tastes yummy! Chop it up into bite size pieces and pop in a plastic container or better still a small zip lock bag, as that will take up less space in the lunchbox. If the weather is warm, preparing the fruit the night before and storing the individual servings in the freezer overnight will mean that, not only does the lunchbox stay cool, the fruit will be just right to eat by lunch time.
Sandwiches get a little boring after a while but you can easily jazz them up a bit by toasting them, such as ham and cheese toasties, or make mini pizzas on pita bread or floured tortillas. Just spread the base with a little tomato sauce and add your child’s favourite chopped vegies with a little cheese and perhaps some ham, fold over or add a bread layer on top and pop in the sandwich press.
Some other ideas to add some extra vegies in disguise are fritters with grated carrot, zucchini, cheese, lean bacon or ham, mushrooms, creamed corn or any combination that you have on hand. Cold omelettes rolled up and cut into slices work well with some extra vegies added, even mini quiches cooked in muffin pans will satisfy the hungriest tummy and are a great way to ‘hide’ the good stuff.
Having a separate little snack bag for recess is a really good idea too, then the lunch food doesn’t get eaten too early in the day, leaving your child hungry when the long break arrives. This can be as simple as some dried fruit such as sultanas or raisins, apple or apricots. This can be mixed with puffed rice or natural popcorn.
Chopped fresh vegies are another good snack alternative, choose from cherry tomatoes, celery, cucumber, carrots, capsicum, just to name a few! Adjust according to your child’s likes and dislikes. You can even include some hummus or tzatziki dip, reusing the little plastic sauce containers you get when you buy some Asian style take away.
Hydration – just a fancy word for drinks!
Water is usually available in the playground and around the school grounds but some children don’t want to waste valuable playing time looking for the bubbler, so include some in your child’s lunchbox along with the food. It is also a good way to keep everything fresh, tasty and at the right temperature on a warm day without adding to the bulk of the lunchbox with non-food items such as mini freezer blocks. Just freeze their water bottle and by lunch time it will be ready to drink and lunch will still be crisp and yummy!