Packing a school lunch box 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 lunch box ideas that strike the right balance.
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 a small nutritious snack that is 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 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 using pikelets (mini-pancakes) or Weetabix (cut 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.
- Make “ants on a log” by cutting celery into sticks, spreading with cream cheese and dotting with raisins.
- 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.
Keep your sandwich 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 the beginning. Try adding 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.
- Replace processed luncheon meat with last night’s leftovers, like roast chicken, teriyaki chicken, steak, meatloaf or grilled salmon.
- Thick casseroles or stews are tasty in wraps, especially with a little grated cheese.
Something different, yet healthy
- 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.
- 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.
- For something hot, use a wide-mouth mini-flask for homemade soup, baked beans, pasta Bolognese, chilli con carne or stir-fried rice with chicken.
- Water is the best choice of drink for kids. If you 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.
- Don’t forget to 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 an insulated one with a removable freezer box, or improvise your own by wrapping a frozen drink box or bottle in a plastic bag and allowing to 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.