Here are some great lunchbox ideas to help inspire you for back-to-school time this week.

Healthy foods are best in your child’s lunchbox. But the food has got to be things they actually enjoy! Keeping lunchboxes interesting and nutritious is a challenge but it’s worth the effort. Children who eat lunch get the nutrition they need for their big day, they concentrate and perform better at school. A healthy lunchbox provides good fuel for growing bodies, and better fuel for learning.

Here are some fresh tips to give your children a simple and nutritious lunch:

Finding the right foods doesn’t have to be the bane of your family’s school prep in the morning. Here’s how to build a perfectly balanced lunchbox, step by step.

The idea is to:

  • Prepare ahead. Have foods in the cupboards ready to go. This will avoid the morning rush.
  • Include a variety of food from the five food groups (breads and cereals, milk and dairy, vegetables, fruit and meat and meat alternatives).
  • Involve your child in the lunchbox decisions! Give them with healthy options to choose from.
  • 1. Start with the base of breads or cereals Bread is an easy base to start building from. Try different types such as wholemeal, high fibre white, grainy and rye. Turkish bread, pita pockets, rolls, bagels, English muffins, fruit bread or mountain bread for wraps can add interest. You can also use pasta, rice, potatoes, cous cous and noodles. Tiger sandwiches with rye and white bread can be a fun way to introduce new, grainier breads.
  • 2. Add meat or meat alternatives Try lean beef, lamb or pork, ham, corned beef, rissoles, meatloaf, chicken, turkey, or fish (tuna, sardines or salmon are good options). Alternatives to meat include hard boiled eggs, peanut butter, hummus, three bean mix or baked beans.
  • 3. Add vegetables (cooked or salad) Choose from lettuce, tomato, cucumber, grated carrot, snow peas, sprouts, celery, capsicum, mushrooms, cabbage, zucchini, eggplant, beans, spinach, asparagus, sweet potato and avocado. These will add color and flavour, but try to avoid soggy sandwich fillings! These can be cut into small pieces for a nibble box.
  • 4. Add dairy foods for strong bones – cheese, low fat cheddar, Swiss, cottage, ricotta.- low fat yoghurt – can be used to dip fruit or vegetables in!- Milk or soy milk (containing added calcium) these need to be kept cold. Try freezing long life tetra packs for lunch boxes or add a cold icepack from the freezer in when packing it in the morning.
  • 5. Add fruits Choose from a variety of fruits in season, when they are cheapest and taste their best. Try a small apple, small banana, mandarin, tangelo or tangerine, orange, small bunch of seedless grapes, a couple of apricots or plums, small container of fruit salad, small pear, berries, Kiwi fruit, cut pieces of melon, peach, nectarine, snack pack container of fruit. Remember to remove pips and stones!
  • 6. Flavouring suggestions Use herbs, spices, pestos, cheesy spreads or sauces for a tastier lunch.
    – Try some chopped parsley, chives, or basil
    – Add lemon juice, mild mustard, chutney, or pesto
    – A little tomato sauce or mayonnaise can help to make lunches more delish.
  • 7. Don’t forget the drink Water is the best drink. Include a large, well-sealed drink bottle to last the whole day. Milk or soy milk is another good option, but make sure that it’s kept cool, particularly during the hotter months.
  • Keeping it all safe Pack lunches up in an insulated lunch box and include a frozen drink or ice-brick. This will help keep lunch box foods cool and fresh so that they are a hit a lunch time, there’s nothing worse than sun-melted, soggy cheese and tomato sandwiches.
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