Providing a nutritious lunch for your children needn’t be difficult. Our guide to building a balanced lunch box will make it easier to feed your children well.
There are many factors at play when we think about pulling together a packed lunch for our children. We want it to be healthy, delicious, fuel our children’s brains through the afternoon, be easy to pull together and pass the ‘peer-pressure’ test. We also need to bear in mind if there are any restrictions or guidelines that the school has in place, such as ‘no nut’ or ‘healthy eating’ policies.
Packed lunch boxes should contain something from each of the following groups:
Ideally make this whole meal or wholegrain like;
- Whole bread
This will provide a slow release of energy to help your children to concentrate throughout the afternoon.
“Most lunch boxes don’t contain enough protein, but children need plenty of protein to help them grow.”
Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscles, organs, and the immune system. Good protein can be found in:
- lean meats
Nutrients that are required for bone growth and development are crucial, so aim to add a portion of calcium to your child’s lunch box. Try out non-dairy sources of calcium such as:
- salmon or sardines,
- hummus made with white beans,
- chopped orange pieces
- Sesame seeds.
The problem with fruit is that it can bruise easily and quickly look unappetizing. Try adding fruit that will still look delicious after being carried in a lunch box on the school run and after being thrown around in the playground.
Add fruits like
And you can try wrapping fruit in a piece of kitchen roll and securing with a band to protect it
- Cherry tomatoes,
- Carrot sticks,
- Green/yellow/red pepper sticks,
- Cucumber slices,
- Celery sticks can all be easily added to a lunch box.
- Fruit juice
- Cup of milk
Water is the perfect drink for a lunch box. Fruit juice, a cup of milk or a home-made smoothie can also be a great addition. But watch out for sugary drinks or branded cartons as well as little processed fruit juice which can contain sugar.
Branded lunch box fillers – be aware!
There are so many branded products for your child’s lunch box that are easily accessible in supermarkets and usually heavily branded with cartoon characters, rewards and prizes to make them as attractive as possible to children.
Unfortunately many of these are highly processed, containing limited nutrients, high levels of sugar and/or salt as well as artificial preservatives, colourings and sweeteners. These are best avoided.
Most children’s lunch boxes are insulated but think about adding in a little freezer pouch to keep the food nice and fresh. Remember, lunch boxes are usually stacked in the classroom until lunchtime and are not kept in the fridge.
In the cold season, some children love having a hot lunch. A little flask can be great for packing soups, stews and casseroles for a warming, comforting lunch.
Bento lunch boxes are also easy to come by and can provide a perfect way to box up an appetizing and healthy lunch.
Metal water bottle – with concerns over BPA leaking into our foods and water from plastic bottles and boxes, you may want to opt for a metal water bottle or a BPA free plastic bottle that you can get from most retailers
How to combat uneaten lunch
If your child’s lunch is regularly coming home uneaten, talk to them to find out the reason for this and work with your child to find a suitable solution. Some reasons can include:
- Too big a snack in the morning, or snack is too close to lunch time
- They don’t like where they are eating (in some schools children with packed lunches sit apart from those on school dinners)
- They go straight out to be with their friends
- They don’t like the food in their packed lunch
- Other children are commenting on the contents of their lunch box or the lunch box itself
- Child wants branded, packaged foods to fit in with their peers.
Healthy recipes for snack
- 2 cups white flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter muffin pans. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg, milk, and butter, stirring only enough to dampen the flour; the batter should not be smooth. Spoon into the muffin pans, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes each.
- Blueberry Muffins.
Use 1/2 cup sugar. Reserve 1/4 cup of the flour, sprinkle it over 1 cup blueberries, and stir them into the batter last.
- Pecan Muffins.
Use 1/4 cup sugar. Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans to the batter. After filling the cups, sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, and more chopped nuts.
- Whole-Wheat Muffins.
Use 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour and 1 cup white flour.
- Date or Raisin Muffins.
Add 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates or 1/3 cup raisins to the batter.
- Bacon Muffins.
Add 3 strips bacon, fried crisp and crumbled, to the batter
SWEET POTATOE BLACK BEAN WRAP
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 medium red onion
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 can black beans
- 1 tbsp. chopped green,red,yellow peppers
- 1 small bunch spinach
- 6 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
- 4 large flour tortillas
- 2 tbsp. low-fat sour cream
- 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- ½ head romaine lettuce
- Heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sweet potato, chopped onion and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Add the beans and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, tossing, until it begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the cheese and potato-bean mixture among the tortillas (about 1 cup each) and roll up to form burritos. Wipe out the skillet and heat over medium heat. Cook the burritos (seam-side down first) until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lime juice, remaining Tbsp. oil, and 1/4 each tsp. salt and pepper. Add the romaine and sliced onions and toss to coat. Serve with the burritos and lime wedges, if desired.
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