Packing a school lunch is like walking a tightrope – you have to make healthy choices while sending the kids off with a meal that has a good chance of actually getting eaten. Here are some ideas from Expat Kitchen that strike the right balance.
Keep sandwiches simple, but interesting.
- Mix cream cheese with veggies like cucumbers and chives, fruit like pineapple, dried apricots or raisins, or even smoked salmon.
- Add sweet corn, spring onion and diced celery to tuna with mayo and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Peanut butter with jam is just one combination. Try mixing it with banana, honey, raisins, grated carrot or diced apple.
- Prepare an easy egg salad with mashed hardboiled egg, mayo, chives and salt and pepper.
- Oldie but goodie – BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato), which works best if packed separately and assembled just before eating.
- Pesto isn’t just for adults; mix it with mayo, shredded chicken or salami.
- Instead of processed luncheon meat, use last night’s leftover roast chicken, teriyaki chicken, steak, meatloaf, grilled salmon and so on.
- Thick casseroles or stews are tasty in wraps, especially with a little grated cheese.
- Use a wide-mouth mini-flask for homemade soup, baked beans, spaghetti bolognese, chilli con carne or stir-fried rice with chicken.
- Kids love making their own food, so pack a wrap or pita pocket, shredded vegetables, a slice of cheese, some chopped meat and a sauce and let the kids assemble their own lunch at school.
- Try salads like pasta salad; corn mixed with chopped bell peppers and cucumber, olive oil and lemon juice; or quinoa or brown rice mixed with olive oil and chopped grilled veggies.
- Freeze a stick of yogurt or fruit jelly the night before. They’ll be just-thawed and perfect by lunchtime, while keeping the lunch box contents cool, too.
Fail to include a fun snack in a child’s lunch box, and you run the risk of diced fruit getting swapped for a more appealing (often packaged) snack. Try including something small and nutritious that’s neither boring nor unhealthy.
- Kids love dips! Pack avocado or hummus dip with carrots, celery and cucumber sticks.
- Make your own “crisps” by microwaving mini-poppadums or making your own pita crisps: cut open a whole-wheat pita, brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle with garlic salt or parmesan cheese and bake at 180°C until browned.
- Chop strawberries into tiny pieces and mix with white chocolate chips.
- Make “ants on a log” by cutting celery into sticks, spreading with cream cheese or peanut butter, and dotting with raisins.
- Make your own trail mix by combining dried fruit, seeds, crunchy wholegrain cereals and desiccated coconut. Another option is to make a fruit and banana crunch by mixing together chopped dried fruit like mango, figs, pineapple and banana chips. (Make sure to control the portion size with this one, though.)
- Make mini-sandwiches by cutting pikelets (mini-pancakes) or Weetabix lengthways and add fillings like cream cheese, jam, avocado, butter, chocolate spread, Vegemite or Marmite.
- Bag a handful of homemade apple crisps (bake thinly-cut apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon at low heat until dried and crispy).
- Jazz up a single portion of yogurt with toppings like wheat germ, toasted coconut, berries, banana chips and seeds.
- Prepare cheese skewers by threading chunks of cheese, cherry tomatoes and fruit on to bamboo skewers. For meat skewers, simply replace the fruit with chunks of ham.
- Drop a handful of toasted seeds or a dollop of jam into a bowl of cottage cheese.
- Include a toothpick when you pack fresh-cut fruit. Kids enjoy spearing their food.
- Water is the best choice of drink for kids. If you do pack a juice box on occasion, make sure it’s 100-percent fruit juice.
- Freeze a pack of UHT milk or soymilk and pack it just before leaving the house.
- Pack all food in airtight containers.
- Supply a spoon or fork when necessary.
- Never send your child to school with nuts; some schools prohibit them.
- Think ahead. Make a little extra dinner the night before and pack the leftovers for an easy, ready-to-go lunch the next day.
All about the box
- Pick a sturdy lunch box with structured walls that can withstand the weight of a bag full of schoolbooks.
- Insulated lunch boxes prevent harmful bacteria from growing. Choose one with a removable freezer box, or improvise your own with a frozen drink box or bottle (wrapped in plastic) that will slowly defrost before lunchtime.
- Lunch boxes with separate containers stop food from getting squashed, prevent salads from going soggy from dressings and avoid strong smells from permeating into other dishes.
For more ideas, join the following Expat Kitchen classes:
* 7 Snack Attack Solutions: Tuesday, 18 August
* Lunch Box Ideas: Tuesday, 25 August
PLUS EL readers can enjoy $20 off per class (only applicable to the two aforementioned sessions) when they quote “ELAUG15” during registration. To register, call 6299 4221 or email email@example.com.
This story first appeared in Expat Living’s August 2015 issue.