Easy Lunchbox Ideas

Ten weeks into the school year and we’re guessing that you ran out of ideas for the children’s packed lunches in week two! Lack of imagination isn’t helped by the changing whims and fancies of the recipients of the lunch.

  • “Jessica (current BFF) doesn’t like houmous – she says it smells like feet”
  • “I don’t like brown bread/white bread/bread with bits on”
  • “I can’t eat hard things” (due to frequent visits from the tooth fairy)

There is also the need for lunch to be highly portable so that it can be stuffed in a pocket and eaten whilst running round the playground. Oh and don’t expect any of your carefully chosen plastic containers to come home with the lid. Or even at all!

Bearing in mind that some schools have specific rules about what can be brought for lunch – restrictions on foods containing nuts (in case of nut allergy) or foods high in fat (crisps) or sugar (chocolate bars and biscuits) it can make preparing a healthy lunch that your child will eat a bit of a minefield!

Supermarkets often have special offers on ‘lunchbox fillers’ as they term them – cheese strings, squeezable yoghurts and even small packs of crackers with various toppings or dips. I tend to limit these to once a week because, despite the discounted price, they can work out quite expensive especially if you have more than one child. And they can also be high in sugar, salt and saturated fat.

Trying to incorporate all the food groups into a lunchbox can be tricky but a bit of planning goes a long way:­

Carbohydrates:­

Children need the ready energy that carb rich food gives them and it should make up about 1/3 of their lunch. These include a wide variety of foods:­ bread; wraps; pasta, rice or cous cous salad; pizza slice, savoury pastry or muffin or sweet options such as malt loaf, scones or hot cross buns.  Wholegrain options give slow release energy, keeping them full for longer.( But this only works if they eat them – not if it ends up coming home with them at the end of the day

Protein

Children need protein for muscle development and it also keeps them feeling full for longer. A portion is roughly what they can fit in the palm of their hand. Cooked meats, such as ham, chicken, turkey or beef; sausages; fish e.g. tuna or sardines; eggs and egg based food such as quiche or frittata: beans and pulses are all good sources of protein.

Dairy

Calcium rich foods are vital for strong healthy bones and dairy products are a great source. The obvious ones are cheeses (including cottage and cream cheese) and yoghurt but a pot of rice pudding or dips such as hummus and tzatziki could be included in a packed lunch. For children who can’t eat dairy, dark leafy vegetables, beans and sesame seeds are high in calcium.

Fruit and Veg

A portion of fruit and veg is roughly the size of your child’s fist so a small bunch of grapes, carrot, cucumber or celery stick, small banana, apple, plum or pear are all good. A healthy lunch box should contain two of your child’s five­a­day with at least one being a vegetable. Adding salad to a sandwich or diced veg to a rice or pasta salad is a great way to supplement it.

Drinks

Drinks often contain hidden sugar which adds calories and attacks teeth! Stick to water if possible and avoid fizzy sugary drinks. Pure fruit juice (preferably diluted) can also contribute to their five-a­day as can fruit smoothies. If your child will only drink juice, stick to the sugar free options.

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