Is your child starting kindy for the first time this year? With all the rules and regulations about what you can and can’t pack, it can seem a little overwhelming at times!
Lauren Kolstad, who is also a nutritionist, has two children – a two year old and a five year old who is heading into kindy this year.
“Last year at preschool we had some practice with school lunches and getting used to the school routine, so I thought I’d share some tips on how I made life so much easier,” she says.
Lauren’s stop three TOP tips for packing a lunch box:
- Make food that works for both your meal plan and school lunches. (I’ve share some of my faves below). This saves time and energy.
- Pack as much of the lunch the night before as you can. This goes for yourself and your little one. Don’t leave it until the morning rush – that never ends well for your sanity!
- Keep it simple. Think about what they’d eat at home and pack similar for lunches.
Lunch box choice
There really is no bad choice when it comes to choosing a lunch box, reveals Lauren.
“You see so many different mums with different opinions about bento boxes etc., but really it depends on how your littlie likes to eat,” she says.
“With the move towards most schools having a ‘no rubbish’ policy, you will generally need to make choices where you don’t send packets or lots of wrapping/plastic – this actually works out cheaper in the long run anyways – so it’s a win win.”
You could try a few different options – you’ll definitely be able to pick up some lunch boxes from less expensive places and have a play until you figure out what works for you. Make sure your child has a practice and can open (and close!) their lunchbox.
“For us, I used a fridge 2 go cooler bag (keeps the food cold for ages) and then just lots of little containers to suit what he was having on the day,” she says.
“It also meant I didn’t have to stress about washing his lunch box each night – just made sure I wiped it out each night and then popped the cooler bag in the wash at the end of the week.”
At Lauren’s school they have:
- Crunch and sip (fruit/vegetables and water break)
- Morning tea
“I make it as easy on myself as I can! Which means that I usually pack both my son’s lunch and mine for work the night before (or as much as I can),” says Lauren.
“I use lots of the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge recipes and we LOVE the Healthy Kids Lunchbox book too. Mr. 5 loves to look through and choose some ideas for the following week.
“With the snacks, I make them all nut free – that means I don’t have to do separate baking for each of us – my son and I just choose what we want from our Healthy Mummy freezer stash!”
Lauren’s morning tea ideas
We love the easy recipe in the kids lunchbox book! We often have pancakes on a weekend – so I use this recipe and make extras for lunches. Those I’ll freeze between sheets of baking paper in a container in the freezer and just grab a couple as needed.
There heaps of topping ideas in the lunchbox book too if your littlie doesn’t like them just plain. You can also make the recipe egg free by using a chia seed gel, or applesauce.
- Bliss balls
My kids love making bliss balls with me! I substitute or oats and/or seeds (chia, pepitas or sunflower usually) for nuts in all of my bliss balls now – no mistakes with accidentally sending to school a nut filled bliss ball.
Plus, it means they’re packed full of nutrients to keep the littlies powered all day! I don’t notice the difference and my son loves them just as much as I do!
Favourites are the zesty chocolate ones from the kids lunchbox book, the apricot and oat from the challenge, weetbix balls and the salted caramel balls from the challenge.
- Fruit and yoghurt
This is a staple of both my kids and my lunch box – its quick to make, cheap and packed full of nutrients. We buy the large tubs of Greek yoghurt and portion out, then add some fruit and you’re done.
Also to add taste, add a little of the chia raspberry jam!
- Veggie sticks
Popular veggies for my kids are green beans, carrot, red capsicum and cucumber – add some hummus and he’s a happy dipper.
Plus, these can be chopped for the week in advance and stored in some water in an airtight container in the fridge. Double bonus – you can use extras for dinner prep too!
- Boiled egg
Some schools are egg free -so obviously don’t send it in if you school is, but our isn’t and it’s a fab protein packed snack to keep little bodies fuelled for the day. For a bit of fun we sometimes make ‘dinosaur eggs’.
After hard boiling, while the shell is still on, crack it a little and then sit in some water with natural food colouring over night. Then peel and you’ll have jazzy little cracks all over like a dinosaur egg! These last in the fridge unpeeled for 5 days or peeled for 3.
- Air popped popcorn
A brown paper bag, a bag of corn kernels, 2 mins in the microwave – and you’ve got yummy and fresh popcorn for the lunchbox. Store extras in an airtight container for about 5 days.
You can add toppings – coconut oil and cocoa, coconut oil and parmesan – but mine like it just as is.
A great way to get calcium in and my kids love Babybels which are a handy size. Even simpler – just cut some cubes from a block of cheese.
- Homemade muffins and slices
Each week on the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge I choose one baked item to make. This is used for both my son and my lunches. I make them nut free easily by either leaving the nuts out, or substituting with a different fruit.
Favourites are Blueberry and Cream Cheese Muffins, Pear and Pecan Muffins (just leave the pecan out), Pineapple and Coconut Muffins, Raspberry Chia Muffins and as an occasional choice – Mint Choc Bubble Crunch.
My sons loves wraps! We choose the multigrain ones for added nutrients and I often store any remainders in the freezer between sheets of baking paper. They defrost fab and I’ve had no complaints yet.
Slow cooker poached chicken – I use this on lots of my Healthy Mummy Challenge lunches too, so it’s another time saver! I poach chicken breast in the slow cooker then shred with some forks and pop into freezer bags.
You can either take the bag out and pop it in the fridge to defrost the night before, or I have even used it frozen on a wrap and it defrosts (without going soggy) by lunchtime.
Ham or turkey – We try and limit processed meats, but it’s fine for once a week to have on a wrap.
Cheese – Colby, Swiss, Cheddar and cottage cheese (if using cottage cheese I usually try and fit it between other fillings so it doesn’t make it soggy).
Pesto – There’s an awesome veg filled one in the kids lunch box book that I freeze into ice cubes and take out a portion at a time.
Salad – Cucumber, baby spinach, red capsicum, carrot are all faves on a wrap as I usually use veg sticks (which I pre cut for the week already) so that saves time and effort!
- Cold spaghetti
It sounds like the Wiggles song, but it’s a super easy and popular choice for my kids. The awesome kids lunch box book has a recipe for veggie packed bolognese sauce which is so yum!
Again, I freeze into ice cubes and just pop a cube with some leftover spaghetti and grated cheese in a container – it defrosts by lunchtime ready to eat.
- Fried rice
This is great cold too – or you can use a thermos to keep it warm. There’s a few Challenge recipes for fried rice which are cheap and easy to make, plus lower in salt and packed full of veg – yum!
- Lasagne bites
I make these from the Healthy Kids Lunch Boxes Cookbook and use wraps instead of pasta, plus the leftover bolognese sauce. A great way to use up leftovers and a bit more exciting than another wrap in his lunch box!
The Healthy Kids Lunch Boxes eCookbook is full of 100 recipes and ideas for your little ones and is a MUST have if you make lunch boxes – or if you want to get your kids eating healthier foods.