It’s easy to fall into the habit of giving kids the same in their lunchboxes every day and kids as well as parents will get bored with a daily diet of sandwiches, an apple and a bag of potato chips. Preparing an interesting, healthy foods to include in the lunch box need not be time consuming or expensive, as the ideas below prove.
Sandwiches or Wraps
Children do like sandwiches or some other form of carbohydrate in their lunchbox, but a healthier option is to switch processed, white bread for healthier alternatives such as wholewheat tortilla wraps, pitta bread, oat cakes or seeded bread. Varying the type of bread your child takes to school each day keeps things interesting for them.
Pasta and Grains
As an alternative to sandwiches, wraps and other bread related products, small portions of cous cous, rice salad or pasta salad can be sent into school instead. Pasta salad can be mixed with different vegetables and dressings to vary the flavour, and children can get involved in preparing the salads themselves.
Fruit and Vegetables
Children are recommended to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and the packed lunch should contain at least one piece of fruit, preferably two. As well as whole bits of fruit, smoothies, homemade jellies with fruit, fruit salad, dried fruit and tinned fruit can be offered instead. Carrot sticks and cucumber are also popular with children of all ages.
Dairy products are a good source of calcium, which is essential for bone development and growth. Small cubes of cheese, yoghurt pots and dips based on dairy products can all be easily packed into a lunchbox.
Many schools have banned unhealthy options such as fizzy drinks, so the best option is to send your child to school with water or diluted fresh juice. Fruit smoothies are the ideal drink for a child who is reluctant to eat whole fruit and milkshakes or flavoured milk are a good choice as long as they do not contain large amounts of added sugar.
Starchy foods such as crisps are often a childhood favourite, but are full of saturated fats and salt. Baked crisps are a better option, as are salt-free varieties. Alternatives to crisps such as rice cakes, crackers or breadsticks can also be packed into a lunchbox. Cereal bars or mixed bags of seeds, raisins and nuts make an ideal snack, but check school policy carefully as many schools have a ban on products contain nuts to protect those with serious nut allergies.
Packed lunches are traditionally cold, but there is no need to stick to just plain sandwiches and crackers. In colder weather, it is possible to put soup, pasta or stews into a thermos flask in the morning, and the food will remain warm through to lunchtime. This is also a great way of using up leftovers, but care should be taken not to pack chicken or rice as these foodstuffs carry a greater food poisoning risk.
Baking and Cakes
Processed cakes and shop bought cookies are not a healthy choice and don’t really have a place in a healthy lunchbox. However, it is possible to make muffins or cookies at home using healthier ingredients such as oats and bran.
The best way to bring up a child to heave a healthy attitude to food and eating is to allow everything in moderation, teaching them that treats are something to be eaten occasionally rather than every day. An occasional treat is not going to do a huge amount of harm, but keep the chocolate cookies or sweets out of an everyday lunchbox.
When making sandwiches, lots of consideration is given to the type of bread and filling, but less attention is paid to the butter or spread used. To keep things healthy, opt for an olive oil based spread rather than butter, which is full of saturated fats which are less healthy for the heart. When using fillings such as cream cheese or jam, an extra layer of spread is unnecessary.