Unwrapping the Secret of Successful Lunch Boxes
Experienced too many of those bleary-eyed mornings, pre-caffeine, where you stumble around the kitchen, raiding the pantry and hastily slapping together passable impressions of sandwiches? The school-day ritual of preparing lunchboxes can create a flurry of stress for yourself and can leave kids with uninspiring and potentially non-nutritious food. But there are some simple ways you can make this a simple and stress-free process.
Organisation is the key to making this process smooth and worry-free. Adding a little creativity to the process can also help to make this experience enjoyable for both you and your little one. Here are some tips, tricks and inspirations to master lunch-box food!
Lunch to Order!
There are a range of simple but effective ways you can prepare for the lunch-box rush and even before you get to the shop for supplies:
- Offer the possibility of variety. It can be as simple as having a range of different sandwich-fillings on hand and different varieties of fruit.
- You can prep’ food the night before when it’s a bit less manic. Why not chop up some non-perishable veggies, like carrot and celery while unwinding with some TV?
- Establish a range of simple, easy-to-prepare food items to mix and match with each other, so that each lunch is varied but also appealing. You can prepare your child a ‘menu’, which is also a good reminder for you and a pre-set list of ingredients for your shopping list. Choose items that can be prepared the night before, or on the weekend and frozen.
- You can even prepare a larger menu of food for the week. Get the whole family involved in planning the week's meals; they’ll feel more engaged with the process and you can make sure that they will actually eat their lunchbox’s contents.
- You can also divvy up the responsibilities of lunch-preparation with the family, so it doesn’t all fall on your busy shoulders. Getting your children involved in packing their own lunches is a great way to do this and gets them feeling involved and independent. Establish a snack station in your pantry or kitchen, where kids can select their snacks for the day from a range of healthy but tasty items. Praise your child when they choose healthy options.
Preparing Lunches for Happy Minds and Healthy Bodies
Lunches and snacks should be healthy and nourishing, and substantial enough to get you child through the day. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- It’s important for your child to eat a mix of the different food groups throughout the day. It doesn’t all have to be at lunch. Think about what your child will be eating over the whole day, including lunch and dinner, to figure out the right balance of what their lunch should contain. This is where pre-planning a rough guide of family meals for the week will really pay off.
- Important food groups to consider include
- fresh fruit, such as the classic apple or banana are great. Try to avoid dried fruit or processed fruit-bars, as these tend to be very high in sugar.
- crunchy vegetables, such as carrot or capsicum sticks
- something rich in protein, whether that be slices of lean meat, hardboiled eggs or the vegan options of tofu and nuts
- dairy food such as a mini carton of milk, a cheese stick or non-dairy-substitute like soy yoghurt
- starchy foods, such as bread or potatoes
- Don't forget to include a water bottle in your lunch, so kids stay hydrated. Encourage them to finish their bottle each day before home-time. Even get them to find out where they can re-fill their bottle with drinking water at school.
- If you are starting a new, healthy-eating regime with your kids, try to set a good example with your own packed lunches.
- Healthy food is not just for lunches. Ensure that kids start each day with a good breakfast, so that they have the fuel and energy to stay alert and active at school. A good breakfast assists with concentration and helps kids be successful at school.
Healthy Fast-food to Make and Share Together
You can cleverly combine you family-together time with food preparation in a fun way by cooking something together that you can then use for lunch-boxes. A fun recipe to make that can be shared across multiple lunchboxes is muffins! Please see a delicious and easy recipe below from our Healthy Kitchen: Superfoods book (please see our Healthy Kitchen range for more delicious and nutritious cooking ideas).
Packing in Some Fun
Okay, so you’ve got the ingredients and the meal plan sorted to keep your child happily fuelled for the day – you are officially organised. Now is the perfect time to experiment with adding that last little exciting touch to make a lunch box magical.
Imagine the joy on your child’s face as they open their lunchboxes and discover this inside:
Adding some fun to food presentation can be as easy as investing in some simple cookie-cutter moulds: circles are great for faces and other cute creatures! Shapes like love hearts and stars are so simple, but effective in transforming your child’s lunch into something exciting. Just make sure that you compensate with other food for any volume lost from the sandwich or other food item that you are cutting.
Learning some simple cutting techniques – such as rounding circular cucumber and carrot slices into flowers is just an added bonus and a skill that you could reuse for when you have dinner parties (adults enjoy this artistry too!).
Just remember that it is the substance of the food not the style that is most important; having a nutritious and fulfilling lunch should always be the ultimate goal of your lunch-box art. Often you can just make the food look appealing by making sure the food is nice and fresh in the first place, it has a bright mix of colours and is laid out appealingly within the lunch box.
If the food is delightfully and amusingly represented as some sort of picture or character that is just an extra level of wow; this may be just a once-in-a-while treat lunch box fun!