I am frequently asked for tips and new ideas for school lunch boxes, and I too occasionally have a hard time thinking of new ideas that are quick and easy to prepare, and “kiddie approved!” Then there is the battle of no nuts, egg free, and the many other restrictions schools enforce that make the busy morning preparations even more a nightmare. It is no wonder many parents give in to packaged convenience foods to keep their little ones full and happy at school. Often though these foods are laden with sugar, preservatives and additives that wreak havoc on their little bodies, leading to behavioural problems, allergies, hyperactivity, tooth decay, and skin conditions. So how do you find the balance and not only make your life easier, but keep the kids happy too? First and foremost the most important thing you can do is educate your kids about why it is important to fuel their bodies with the right kinds of foods. It doesn’t mean you have to sit them down and give them a scientific lecture on the importance of vitamins and minerals in their diet, but more an informal chat about how “nasty ingredients” can make them feel yucky and influence their behaviour. Get them to help you to look for fun and healthy recipes in books and online, and then prepare them with you. Kids looooove to cook and help out in the kitchen, and will learn not only about nourishing their bodies with healthy food, but may even get in some maths practise too as they help with counting and measuring.
Some great lunchbox ideas include
- Fruit or vege kebabs- a mixture of grapes, strawberries, apple, blueberries and banana work well as they all thread onto the sticks easily. For a savoury twist, opt for cheese, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber. Just remember to cut off the sharp pointy end!
- Frittata balls- easy to make and vary each week and great eaten cold, these can be made at the start of the week and frozen ready for use. They are a great protein source too!
- Vegetable sticks with dip- hummus is really easy to make and the chickpeas offer a great source of iron and fibre as well as being high in protein. Kids not keen on hummus? Try tzatziki, or beetroot dip made from natural yoghurt
- Chocolate dipping sauce and fruit- the kids will think all there Christmases have come at once with a little container of dipping sauce for their chopped fruits to dip in. See my recipe below for a tasty healthy treat
- Sushi- Definitely an acquired taste, but if your kids love eating seaweed- why not! It can be made the day before and kept in the fridge, saving you time in the mornings. Just remember to pop an ice brick in there to keep it cool if using meats.
- Nut free muesli bars- As the majority of schools are nut free, you may find it hard to make muesli bars without adding them. There are plenty of alternatives though including using buckwheat, (which has numerous healthy qualities such as being high in iron and magnesium) oats, puffed rice, and seeds.
- Salads- maybe a choice for the older kids, but adding a salad is a great way of getting more vegetables and nutrient rich foods into their diets. Try brown rice and tuna, with chopped cherry tomatoes, cucumber and fetta, with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds. Or a chicken and avocado salad, with chopped carrots and capsicum and some sliced olives.
- Chia puddings- tasty and filling, these are a great treat enjoyed by many kids and are packed with healthy fats
- Sandwiches- Yes I know the majority of kids would take a sandwich to school but some of the fillings are probably not the best choices! Processed deli meats, jam, and even fairy bread doesn’t provide too many healthy nutrients for a growing child! If your kids aren’t that keen on salad sandwiches, that’s cool, opt for a tahini honey and banana sandwich on rye bread with a sprinkle of cinnamon, or cheese, avocado and tomato. You can always add a small container of chopped carrot, cherry tomatoes and snow peas to ensure they are getting in a few serves of veges.
- Yoghurt and fruit- instead of buying those pesky little pouches of flavoured sugar filled yoghurt make your own. There are plenty of simple recipes to make your own yoghurt but if that’s not in your expertise, buy natural unsweetened yoghurt and add berries, or chopped banana, mango or even grated apple. Add some cinnamon, a squeeze of honey and even chia seeds and you have a healthy treat, packed with nutrients and protein. Just remember to add an ice brick to keep it cold as chances are it could be in their lunchboxes for 3-4 hrs, and no one likes warm yoghurt!
Lunch box choices don’t need to be boring and a hassle every morning. A little planning and prepping can go a long way to making the many years of school life with your kids a fun and pleasant ride. So embrace it and get creative!
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Photo credits – www.healthhub.net.au