The formula for packing the perfect lunchbox!
Posted by Mandy Sacher on August 14, 2018
Posted by Mandy Sacher on August 14, 2018
Do you dread the daily task of packing lunches? You’re not alone, we promise!
For many, this can be a source of frustration and stress, especially when packing for more than one whilst trying to make the contents varied, inspiring, nutritious and enjoyable at the same time.
In my book, I feature a range of lunchbox menu planners to suit busy families and fussy little eaters.
A great way to get kids excited about their lunches is to include them in your planning and shopping. Ask them what they would like to eat, talk to them about the importance of healthy food and how it will sustain them through the day. Get them to help pack their lunches the evening before (this will also help keep the morning rush stress levels down).
Important elements to keep in mind when packing lunches (as well as ensuring everything is healthy and delicious) are hydration and storage. Ensure your little ones stay well hydrated with plenty of water plus, pack fresh fruit and veg such as watermelon and cucumber.
Keeping their food cool is vital too. Include a small ice pack in their lunchbox to help keep food fresh and safe throughout the day.
What to include:
- Fresh crunchy vegetables (capsicum, carrot, cucumber)
- Calcium-rich foods (cheese, tahini, natural yoghurt)
- Protein (lean meat, salmon, tuna or a hard-boiled egg)
- Wholegrains (sourdough wholegrain bread, wholemeal flatbread or seeded crackers)
- Healthy fats (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, avocado)
- Fresh fruit (berries, mango, apple)
- Of course, water.
If your little one is used to juice, I suggest diluting this down, with the intention of moving to water eventually.
The main meal
It’s ideal to always ensure that there’s a rich source of protein on offer when kids open their lunchboxes. This is the best way to stabilise blood sugar levels and increase concentration span. For a hearty protein-rich lunch that will sustain your little one through the day, try our Mini Salmon Quiches, Sweet Potato Pikelets or Lamb Koftas.
Don’t feel that main meal options should be limited to cold foods. Include warm options too, like Spaghetti Bolognese, veggie-packed wholegrain pasta with sauce and other options like Roasted Mixed Veggies or Sweet Potato Wedges which can be easily cooked in advance, heated in the morning and put in a Thermos-style container so the food is still warm at lunchtime.
These recipes come fully kid-approved, simple, tasty, nutritious and can be made in batches and frozen ahead of time, making them extremely convenient.
Try to steer away from providing pre-packaged snacks which can be high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, it’s a good idea to train your children not to expect their food to only arrive in brightly coloured ‘one serve’ packaging. Rather start to interest them in creating their own little snack packs, which also teaches them that non-processed and pre-packaged snacks are enjoyable options.
Keep snacks nutritious, healthy, fresh and colourful. Simple and easy ideas include popcorn, brown rice sesame crackers, cut up veggies with dips, veggie and fruit skewers, trail mixes, a mini fruit salad of mixed berries, and cubes of cheese.
Some of our popular and simple Wholesome Child snacks include: Banana Bread, Raspberry and Pear Muffins and Apricot and Coconut Muesli Bars. These are all very easy to make and far superior to store-bought options that can contain hidden nasties.
There’s no need to plunge in at the deep end and stop all your old favourites at once though! With kids, it’s best to start out slowly, and together learn what they like, what they’re not so keen on, and what they’d like to help you create for their school snacks.
The lunchbox itself is important, too!
Stainless steel lunch boxes are eco-friendly and have great compartments for little hands. We love the Bento-style boxes as these add an element of choice and variety – they also look far more appetising to little ones who may be somewhat fussier than others and prefer to keep their different foods separate from one another.
Some children love their sandwiches, so rather than trying to permanently steer them away from this choice, try some of these nutritious sandwich spread alternatives for variety and boosted nutritional intake:
- Miso paste and sunflower seed butter instead of vegemite
- Avocado and ricotta cheese
- Butternut Hummus
- Mashed egg with mayonnaise and grated carrot and touch of sweet paprika (for a non-mayo dressing substitute use full cream yoghurt, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and olive oil)
- A cheese toastie with added veggies – spread wholegrain bread with sweet potato or pumpkin puree before toasting for a veggie boost
- Coconut oil, cinnamon, banana and ricotta cheese
Whilst sandwiches are an easy option for many families, variety is also key and teaching children to eat and enjoy lunch choices other than sandwiches is a great way to expose them to new foods and further increase their nutrient intake. Some great alternate sandwich options include: Sushi Rolls, rice paper rolls, cheese scrolls, wraps with healthy fillings or Cauliflower Pizza Bases with melted cheese.