We know that making healthy, yummy lunchboxes for kids can be a challenge for many parents. Mornings are rushed in busy households, and so often there’s only enough time to slap a sandwich together, add an apple and send the kids on their way. And then there’s the frustration of dealing with fussy young eaters – how many times have you put real effort into a lunchbox, only to have it returned sad and uneaten in the afternoon?
We have some smart strategies for preparing wholesome, nutritious lunchboxes filled with food we think your little ones will love!
It’s difficult to dream up a delicious lunchbox at six in the morning when all you have in the cupboard is a loaf of stale bread and a jar of peanut butter. A good idea is to set aside 20 minutes on a Saturday to plan the whole week’s lunchboxes in advance, so you know exactly which ingredients to stock up on. Then set up a system for making lunchboxes the night before, so all you have to do in the morning is whip the boxes out of the fridge and tuck them into tiny backpacks.
Variety is important
No one’s saying your little angel needs a complicated gourmet lunch every day – there’s nothing wrong with a wholewheat sandwich and a piece of fresh fruit. But if you find your kids are not eating what you make for them, it may be time to rethink what goes into their lunchboxes. Kids adore novelty, and it’s worth coming up with creative new ways of presenting food.
Try ringing the changes to lunchboxes once or twice a week – you’ll soon find out whether the kids are interested in giving the new, healthier snacks a go! For example, you could cut sandwiches into interesting shapes, or thread pieces of fresh fruit on kebab sticks, or fill the box with veggie sticks, chicken strips and a delicious avocado dip. Read on for more ideas!
Match family meals to future lunchboxes
When you’re planning dinner, choose kid-friendly recipes that can easily be doubled so you have plenty of leftovers for popping into lunchboxes. If you roast two chickens at a time, for example, you’ll have extra cooked chicken to use as fillings for sandwiches – just add mayo and lettuce! Leftover cooked pasta can be transformed into a delicious pasta salad.
Use savoury mince as a filler for wholewheat wraps, pita breads or tortillas. Meatballs, fishcakes, chicken patties, fritters, boiled eggs and vegetarian burgers all make great ‘portable snacks’ for kids, and all you need add is fresh fruit and perhaps a small pot of yoghurt.
Add more veggies
Pack more nourishment into lunchboxes by including veggies you know your kids will like, such as crunchy baby carrots, sweet cherry tomatoes and roasted butternut cubes. Not all children are keen on vegetables, but you might be surprised at how readily they’ll eat them if you include a little tub containing a tasty dip. If you’re faced with little ones who stubbornly refuse to eat veggies, try the ‘hidden vegetables’ approach: coarsely grate carrots, baby marrows, cauliflower or butternut, then sneak them into bolognaise sauces, tuna meatballs, savoury muffins and mini quiches.
Ditch the processed snacks
There’s no harm in occasionally adding a packet of crisps or a square of chocolate to a lunchbox as a special treat, but highly processed salty or sugary snacks are full of ‘empty’ calories and do not provide kids with the sustained energy they need during busy school days. Look for healthier snack alternatives, such as home-made popcorn, frozen grapes, nuts, dried fruit, wholewheat muffins, banana bread and so on.