Keeping the inspiration up for school lunches can be a test of endurance. Running out of healthy yet yummy lunch ideas for the little ones? Consider adding these sandwiches, snacks and other nutritious nibbles to the rotation.
Keep sandwiches simple, but interesting. Use wholemeal breads, pita pockets and wraps for variety.
• 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.
• Prepare an easy egg salad with mashed hardboiled egg, mayo, chives and salt and pepper.
• 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.
• Consider pizza scrolls, sausage rolls, frittatas, falafel and sushi.
• 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 (capsicum) and cucumber, olive oil and lemon juice; or quinoa or brown rice mixed with olive oil and chopped, grilled veggies. Pack any dressing separately.
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 red pepper, beetroot, 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.
• Sweet and savoury muffins – there are so many varieties!
• 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 banana and/or blueberry pancakes.
• 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 yoghurt 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 diced vegetables 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 soy milk 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, yoghurt stick or fruit jelly 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, check out Expat Kitchen.
Parents from the health and food industries share their own lunchbox go-to’s and some helpful tips.
“My kids’ absolute favourite meal to take to school is beef or pork tortellini with some Parmesan cheese! It takes seven minutes to cook in the morning before school, and goes straight into a flask with a small pot of grated Parmesan , and some raw cucumber and carrot sticks. If I think they need an extra health boost, we cook the tortellini in beef bone broth (or you can just add a few spoonfuls to boiling water). It really enhances the flavour and is packed full of goodness.” – Sasha Conlan, Founder of Sasha’s Fine Foods
“My kids like all sorts of colourful skewers – cheese combined with grapes, apricots, rockmelon and berries, or vegetables like cherry tomatoes, capsicum, broccoli, and carrots. We also prepare a variety of flatbreads – Turkish bread and focaccia – and put pulled beef, chicken or fish cakes inside, with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, capsicum, thinly sliced carrots or thinly sliced cucumbers , or beetroot – the kids just love it.” – Dr Andrea Rajnakova, gastroenterologist
“My daughter Ava’s lunch box includes carrot sticks or bell pepper strips, cheddar cheese cubes or mozzarella stringy sticks and cold edamame beans or fresh peas in pods. For fruit, we mix blueberries and strawberries, or pack sliced apples, small bananas or watermelon cubes. A frozen water bottle helps keep the food fresh and washes away food residue on her teeth.” – Dr Shaun Thompson, Managing Director at Expat Dental
“I’m pretty obsessed with bento-style lunches and lunch boxes for my kids. It’s not unusual for kids to be a bit faddy about what they eat, so if you give them a daily variety, they are more likely to have at least some of it. One of my all-time favourites is spring rolls; my kids always eat them because they help me make them and choose the ingredients – from pork or chicken, to bean sprouts and cucumber to rice noodles and tofu.
And, no good kids’ lunch box is complete without some fruit; my kids and I are both equally in love with berries – not too much sugar and packed with nutrition. Their all-time favourite is blueberries.” – Wendy Riddell, Head of Nutrition at UFIT
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