Now that the first mid term break is behind us, you might be running out of ideas for the school lunch boxes. Kids need a nutritious lunch box but finding inspiration and healthy ingredients to ring the changes can be a challenge. I have compiled a few healthy tips and suggestions that may help to provide that inspiration:
When making up your children’s lunchbox. Try to include a portion from each of the food groups; Carbohydrates: whole meal bread or grains – Protein, fruit & veg and added calcium, important for growing bones!
1 portion from each of the groups is:
- Bread/grains: 2 slices of whole meal bread. 1 medium whole meal bread roll. 1 pitta bread. 4 tbsp. cooked brown rice/ whole grain pasta/ quinoa.
- Protein: 2 slices lean cooked meat; turkey, chicken, unsmoked ham, small can of tuna, sardines, salmon or mackerel. 1 or 2 hardboiled eggs. 2 slices of unprocessed cheese. Hummus.
- Fruit & veg: 1 medium apple/ orange/ banana/ pear. 2 satsumas. Fruit smoothie. 80g raw carrot sticks or red pepper slices, or a small bowl of homemade veg soup.
- Calcium: small pot of yoghurt, small carton of milk, match box size of cheese, sardines, small tinned wild salmon, not forgetting plant based sources of calcium, such as: green leafy veg, quinoa, almonds, hummus, tahini.
- Whole grains provide a sustained energy release, vital for keeping your kids energy levels balanced and avoiding mid day slumps.
- Always try to combine protein with carbohydrate (bread/grains) to further help with sustained energy release.
- Buy a lunch box with different compartments in one box, Kids like finger food and mixing and matching foods from the different compartments.
- Make eating lunch as easy as possible for smaller kids: Break oranges/satsumas/clementines into segments. Cut apples into slices and sprinkle with lemon juice to avoid browning and to add extra vit C? take grapes off bunch and just include individually. I know these sound like small things, but you will notice, they do make a difference to a lunch eaten or not!
- Use little cookie cutters to shape sandwiches, or just cut sandwiches into little squares. As above, kids like smaller bites and novel shapes have better appeal.
- For snacks/sweet things: you can buy fruit rolls which are healthy little snacks and look like sweets to kids, but in fact are one of your 5 a day! They are pure fruit, lightly cooked and compressed into rolls. Or try baking your own healthy flapjacks or muffins.
- Always choose filtered or bottled water as a drink. You can lightly flavour with any fresh fruit juice if preferred.
Whole meal mini pitta bread, filled with finely diced chicken breast mixed with finely chopped spring onion, shredded lettuce and diced red pepper and bound with mayonnaise or salad cream. You can make up enough of this mixture for a few days lunches and keep refrigerated. You can use left over roast chicken for this or cook a chicken specifically for lunch fillings. Great source of protein, veg and whole grains in one! Switch Pitta bread for wholegrain sliced bread or wraps for a change.
Mackerel/wild salmon/sardine pate:
Mash up the cooked/tinned fish with some finely chopped spring onion and very finely shredded raw spinach leaves, season with a little sea salt and pepper and bind together with mayonnaise of salad cream. Can be used as pitta filling or served with crackers or carrot sticks to dip.
Quinoa is a super grain and contains all 8 essential amino acids so is a great source of protein as well as a rich source of calcium. It’s a favourite with all the family and perfect for lunch boxes.
Place 1 cup of quinoa in a saucepan with 1.5 cups of water, crumble in 1 veg stock cube and add 1 tsp turmeric and 1tsp mild curry powder. Bring to the boil and simmer till liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked and fluffy. For those not familiar with quinoa, it looks very similar to Couscous. When cooked and still warm, add 80g of raisins/sultanas, 1 clove of garlic finely chopped, some pine nuts and some chopped coriander. The resulting taste is a sweet and savoury flavour, which kids love. Make enough for a few lunch boxes.
These recipes are great for adult lunch boxes too!