It is a hectic time to be a parent. Forget the stress of trying to organise the school run, the real dilemma is what on earth you are going to put in the kids’ lunchboxes. 12WBT dietitian Georgie Moore has takes the hard work out of the equation with her healthy lunchbox ideas.
Coming up with tasty, nutritious and lunchbox friendly (read: drip-proof), food is tricky. Coming up with options that ticks all those boxes five days a week – all term – is a definite challenge.
To make life a little easier and give you some inspiration, I’ve put together a few lunchbox ideas to simplify your before school prep.
Lots of schools across Australia take part in Crunch&Sip, a program which encourages students to bring a piece of fruit or some vegetables to school to munch on while sipping water. Children take a Crunch&Sip break which gives them the opportunity to eat the healthy snack that might otherwise be left in their lunchbox or not be eaten at all.
Few things are hardier than pieces of fruit that comes in their own ‘wrapper’ – apples, oranges and mandarins. If your kids aren’t super fussy, leave the skins on fruits and vegetables, that’s where a lot of the nutrients are.
Vegetables that travel well include carrots, cucumbers, capsicum (better off pre-chopped and in a plastic container) and celery. Cut up vegetable sticks with a small container of hummus, baba ghanoush, or tomato salsa.
Other good snacks:
- Tuna or cheese with crackers can be great but be mindful of the energy, sodium and fibre content of the crackers. Look for snacks with 500mg or less of sodium per 100g, and the more fibre the better – try to aim for a snack with 3g or more fibre per 100g.
- Flavoured rice crackers are a much better choice than chips, but you’ll still need to be mindful of the salt (sodium) content.
- Air-popped popcorn is low in calories and fat and high in fibre (it’s a wholegrain, after all), and can be found pre-made in the chip section of the supermarket.
Lunches They’ll Love
There is nothing worse than a soggy sandwich – kids like them about as much as adults! To stop a lunch turning lousy, pack the ingredients separately and let the kids assemble their sandwich just prior to eating. I’d suggest a roll, salad ingredients, and lean meat.
Here are some other suggestions:
- Wrap It
Wraps are a great if packed correctly. If you’re making a wrap to take for lunch, ensure that it’s packed in a way that prevents it from becoming wet mess. A great way to do this is to place the dried ingredients closest to the wrap and the soggiest items closest to the centre – for example: wrap, lettuce, carrot, cucumber, beetroot and tomato. I also double-wrap my sandwiches and wraps to make sure they’re still in one piece by lunchtime.
- Savoury Servings
If you have time on the weekend or the night before, why not make up some great-tasting corn fritters, frittatas, savory slices or patties. These dishes all taste just as good cold, just make sure you don’t add too much cheese to these dishes. Instead, bulk them up with vegetables (I find frozen mixed vegetables, such as peas, corn and chopped carrots, are perfect thanks to their compact size and convenience). Ensure that you load up your dishes with plenty of herbs and spices for flavour rather than salt.
- Roll and Go
Rice paper rolls are terrific and are easier to make than they look. They also keep really well in the fridge and were born to travel! Think of fillings such as cooked chicken with grated carrot, basil or coriander leaves, lettuce, capsicum and more. I find kids actually love making these!
The options are endless. As long as you have a decent plastic container, you can pack almost anything for lunch. Just make sure that if there’s no microwave or oven available, the meal will still work as a cold dish.
Water is definitely the best option, but if the kids want something different, then choose a fruit juice popper that is 100% fruit. These can also be frozen and used as a cold pack to keep foods (or just itself) cool in the summer months.
There are some natural cordials out there, but these should be an occasional option, rather than an everyday choice as they can be packed full of sugar.
The Beetroot Tzatziki, Tabouli & Rare Roast Beef Wrap and the Shredded Slaw, Cheese & Black Bean Wrap are two of Michelle Bridges’ favourite 12WBT wrap recipes. They’ll give you a taster AND get you thinking outside the box (or outside the Mountain Bread!).