It's that time of year again so I've updated my lunchbox post....
I get asked the question almost every day…”what do you put in their lunchboxes?”. Now I don’t know about you, but making three lunchboxes in the morning doesn’t leave me a lot of time to make smiley faced sandwiches and cute fruit shapes – so my lunchboxes are practical and nutritious for busy mums and dads!
Don’t despair if your children are fussy….most are! My children are creatures of habit, I try to change it a little each day, adding new foods a few times a week, to build the variety. (this applies to dinner as well)
Basics to include in Lunchboxes
Nude food: As far as possible keep it “nude food” – non packaged and non processed – it is so much cheaper, healthier and kinder to the environment.
One of my big tips for everyone is to ensure there is a good balance of protein, complex (unrefined) carbohydrates and good fats.
Protein. The macro nutrient I see lacking in many lunchboxes is protein (think fruit and crackers, or a honey sandwich on white bread). Protein is “the building block” – it is needed for cell development, renewal and growth. It helps fill us up and stay full for longer, it helps even out our blood glucose – this means we crave less sugar, we avoid that afternoon slump, and importantly it really helps children’s concentration. So I include a little protein for breakfast, morning tea, lunch and dinner. A serve of protein is roughly palm size – so the size of your child’s palm – I’m aiming for around ½ serve at meals and ¼ to ½ for snacks.
Protein ideas for lunchboxes:
• Chicken drumstick, thinly sliced roast beef, lamb, turkey
• Boiled egg wrapped in lettuce leaf
• Sandwich fillings – see meats above, also nut butters (if allowed)
• Tofu (Soyco Japanese is our fav)
• Frittata, savoury muffins with egg and meat source
• Yoghurt (make your own or buy quality plain yoghurt – Merideth/Jalna, add frozen berries/pear/banana (a drop of maple syrup if needed). You can even buy the squeezy tubes to put it in instead of buying the pre-packaged sugary one
• Seeds, hommus, (raw & unsalted nuts at home).
• Seed mixes and nuts (if allowed at school)
• Rissoles – veggies and protein
• Casseroles, stir fries and soups (leftovers!) with meat and veg, brown rice, tamari and some chicken or beef
• Pieces of cheese with some brown rice crackers
Complex carbohydrates – vegetables and legumes, wholegrains, wholegrain and sprouted breads, wholegrain and wholemeal sourdough, grain wraps. These provide a sustained source of energy. Avoid simple carbohydrates like sugary snacks, honey and jam sandwiches, white bread and rolls, sugary drinks – they are empty calories, spike blood sugar and give a slump afterwards, inhibiting concentration and learning for little people (and big people for that matter).
• Choose good quality breads
– Without preservatives, wholegrain, sourdough.
– Sprouted breads, Burgen grain breads, Mountain bread wraps – quinoa, chia, rice
• Sweet potato “chips” – (slow bake little chunks)
• Legumes – dried chickpeas, lentils etc in salads, casseroles and soups
• Brown rice crackers (health food aisle)
• Brown rice cakes, Ryvita
• Fried rice (brown basmati rice), brown rice / quinoa with casseroles –
• Puffed brown rice, puffed corn, popcorn
Include some vegetables
• Try veggie dipping sticks – with hommus, tzaziki, pesto or other dips
• A little salad: Snowpeas, mini toms, corn, cucumber, carrot
• Veggies in frittata, rissoles, savoury muffins,
• Greens on a sandwich, lettuce around an egg
• Slow roasted pumpkin, sweet potato
• Frozen peas and corn
• Kale chips, sweet potato chips (bake in oven w/olive oil)
Some fruit – one to two serves per day is ideal. Limit dried fruit (remember one dried apricot is one apricot! which is about 1/2 a serve of fruit). A packet of sultanas is a lot of grapes.
Good fats – needed for brain and nervous system development, help us feel full and stay full longer,
Sources Avocado – in salad, sandwiches (instead of butter), on brown rice cakes, Olive oil / macadamia oil /avocado oil on salads, Coconut – chips are great in a trail mix (coconut chips, corn/rice puffs, seeds (5-8 nuts ), a few cranberries/sultanas), Raw seeds and nuts, Nut spreads – so easy to make in the Thermomix, or you can buy some great ones with no sugar or nasties, even at the supermarket - try Mayvers brand.
Some tips to make it a bit easier:
- make it quick and easy to eat (so they can get out and play!)
- prepare as much as you can the night before – eg cut up veggie sticks, boil egg, cut up tofu etc while you are cooking dinner.
- Prep and freeze - eg muffins, frittata, quiche, casseroles etc
- Cook extra at dinnertime for leftovers.
- Keep trying new foods, have staples, but add something new each day.
- a boiled egg (you can peel it and wrap it in a lettuce leaf to keep it fresh – adds a nice crunch to it, and means they don’t have to fiddle with peeling it)
- a chicken leg / piece of cold meat (cut up / not cut up)
- mini frittatas / slice of frittata / mini quiche
- Savoury muffins
- a piece of tofu (Soyco do a great Japanese one), cut into slices
- a couple of slices of cheese and some brown rice crackers
- nuts (5-8 nuts) and seeds (if allowed at school – else save for an afternoon snack)
- hommus or other dips and veggie sticks – carrot, celery, beans, snowpeas, cucumber, asparagus all work well (look out for additives/preservatives in some of these dips – choose the ones with the simplest ingredients – I like Pilpel Hommous or home made)
- plain popcorn (pop it yourself in a little macadamia oil– so much cheaper and healthier – takes 5 mins)
- Leftovers / extras cooked at dinner
leftover chicken legs / a piece of cold meat is a great snack/part lunch.
Casseroles , wholemeal pasta, fried rice and soups (you can heat up in the morning and put into a flask to keep it warm)
Rissoles – beef/chicken – packed with vegetables
Sandwiches and wrap ideas
We use soy-lin sourdough, Burgen Soy-Lin, or Mountain bread chia or rice wraps.
- Turkey, avocado, lettuce
- Free range ham, cheese and lettuce
- Shredded chicken, finely chopped celery avocado, lettuce and mayonnaise**
- Lamb, roasted pumpkin, rocket/spinach (and mustard/chutney *if they like it) – yes – this is the lamb roast leftovers!
- Roast beef, avocado, tomato and lettuce/rocket (pop tomato between the lettuce and beef – away from the wrap/bread), add chutney or mustard if they like.
- falafel, rocket, avocado and hommus
- Nut butter (if nuts are allowed) – Almond/brazil/Cashew – great source of protein and fats
- Rissole (sliced), avocado, lettuce/rocket and tomato/chutney
- Tuna, chives (mayo if desired) & mixed leaves – spread leaves across wrap to keep tuna away from wrap/bread.
- Smoked salmon, ricotta & or avocado, (capers) and mixed leaves (see above re leaves)
* Chutney – home made/organic – see your organic store or your local produce market. Bear in mind they do include sugar – so use sparingly.
** Mayonnaise – use a good quality olive oil mayonnaise. This is my favourite mayo recipe - simple and clean. Bear in mind, most commercial ones contain sugar so again (and the low fat ones are even worse), use sparingly.
Something sweet..but not too much
Most days the sweetness in our lunchboxes is from fruit. But a couple of times a week I like to include a nutritious sweet treat in lunchboxes or for afternoon tea. These are treats without refined sugar or refined carbohydrates/flour, they are nutrient dense include protein and fibre. Some ideas below, click on the purple links for recipes:
- Better Banana Bread
- Wholemeal spelt pikelets
- Protein Ball or apricot coconut ball
- Pumpkin Cranberry muffins, Banana, coconut, date and apple muffins
- Fruit is always good – I limit fruit to 1-2 pieces serves per day – nutrient dense fruit like berries are always popular. I always add some snowpeas, carrots or green beans with some fruit for “crunch and sip”.
- Nutrient dense breads and muffins see here and here.
- Yoghurt (natural is best – add your own frozen berries/fruit). Reusable pouches like the Little Mashies allow you to fill and refill pouches (cheaper, healthier and more sustainable than the packaged yoghurts).
- Home made nut free muesli bars, or these muesli bars, or Carmen’s are quite good for a fast alternative
- Nutrient dense cookies like the oat cookies or the Coconut crunch cookies.
Example lunchbox for a week.
I've included breakfast ideas here too because it's so important to start the day with a good breakfast, which includes protein, to set children up for a good day. My children eat a lot for breakfast so will often have two of the items in the breakfast column. Links to recipes are in purple.
Crunch & Sip
Strawbs & snowpeas
Apple & carrot
Pear & cucumber
Plum & carrot
Mini fruit salad with mint
Tofu & 1/2 apple
boiled egg in lettuce leaf, strawberries
Hommus & veggie sticks –
Cheese & brown rice crackers
Vegetable mini frittata
Turkey, avocado & lettuce wrap
natural yoghurt w/berries
Rissoles & dipping sauce
Roast beef, avocado, tomato & lettuce/rocket wrap
Chicken drumstick, carrot, broccoli cucumber
Food should be kept cool to avoid harmful bacteria from growing. Make sure you have a well-insulated lunch box and an ice-block/frozen drink in the lunchbox to keep it cool. I keep lunches in the fridge until we are about to walk out the door (with my keys on the lunchboxes so I don’t forget them!)
I’d love to hear your favourite lunchbox inclusions! Post a comment or send me an email.