Top tips, tricks and ideas for packing great school lunches

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I wanted to give you some tips to help you get on the get on the right track when it comes to preparing children’s packed lunches. For some, this can be an arduous task and it can be all too easy to run out of ideas. We all know that kids need to eat healthily to support their growth and development, learning, mood and behavior, and ensure that they have enough energy to get them through the school day.

These tips will help you to make their lunch fun, colourful and interesting. And, help give it the WOW factor!

My 10 Top Tips:

1.    Getting started - invest in some good packaging- a good lunch box is a great way for kids to enjoy a lovely combination of food together. Often with kids, it's all about the pots and packaging, which is one of the reasons that convenience/packaged foods and snacks always win children over. Use small containers and pots: kids love the separate compartment boxes, like the yum boxes which are reusable, dishwasher friendly and come in lots of colours. Also, these can really help picky eaters, as they can have a mezze style lunch eating a wide variety of foods making it fun for them

2.   Plan ahead -  pack the lunches the night before;  it is one less thing to think about in the morning, removing another stress as everyone is trying to get ready and out the door on time

3.   Prep ahead - spend a little time on a Sunday/a midweek evening to prep some food in batches such as quinoa, cous cous, rice, hummus, pesto, roasted sweet potato wedges, boil eggs, frittata, muffins, kale chips, chop up some vegetables and fruit. Pack into into different food groups in the fridge (i.e. protein, veges) ready to just pop in the boxes the night before. Also, use leftovers from the previous night’s supper

4.   Shortcuts - if you are busy and time does not allow, make shortcuts by buying some pre-prepared vegetables and products that are available in the supermarkets, such as dips, hummus, cooked lentils and beans, cooked edamame beans etc. The key here is that your children get the fruits and vegetables that they need

5.   Get the kids involved - let your child come up with some ideas (with your guidance) or choose from a healthy selection that you have suggested. This will empower them and encourage them to eat healthily. Let them help to put the food into the compartments. Also, it’s good practice for them and they are more likely to eat something that they have helped to prepare

6.   Food groups to include: Let’s keep this simple. Think of their lunchbox as a meal on a plate. Divide their meal into 2 quarters and one half. So, their meal should be made up of:  

¼ - a small handful measure of protein e.g. a chicken breast, turkey, fish, lentils, legumes

¼ - a cupful of complex carbohydrate e.g. some quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice, pasta, avoiding refined white goods (white pasta, bread etc.)     

½ - made up of vegetables this will help to balance blood sugar, make your child feel fuller for longer and give sustained energy and concentration throughout the school day.

7.   Foods to include:

Protein = slices of chicken, mini chicken kebabs, fish, smoked mackerel etc. Skewers work well, little sticks of cheese /grated cheese, eggs - hard boiled, frittata

Carbohydrates = quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, pearl barley, bulgar wheat, whole wheat or rice pasta with pesto (omit the nuts) noodles, sweet potato wedges, pitta bread, flat bread, seeded crackers.

Vegetables = eat a rainbow, and the key here is to include some vegetables that you know your child loves and will eat, such as little cut up vegetables e.g. cucumber, carrot, peppers, sugar snap peas, sweetcorn, edamame beans, broccoli trees, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, kale chips, olives. Serve with dips (in little pots) e.g. hummus, guacamole

Fruit = chop up or make fruit kebabs. Choose berries and fruit that are lower in fruit sugar, like apples, pears which will help balance blood sugar, rather than always including mango, pineapple and dried fruit which are high in fruit sugar. Even though it is natural sugar, the sugar will still cause a rise in blood sugar levels which can cause a crash later in the day

8.   Snacks = include some snacks/ finger bits but keep them healthy - muffins, flapjacks, homemade popcorn, oatcakes, rice cakes. Most commercial snacks for children are processed and high in sugar.  It’s so simple but cheese and apple is always a winner

9.   Keep the food choices varied and interesting to avoid boredom. Remember that you (and they) eat with your eyes

10.  Introduce new foods slowly so that you are always introducing something new into their diet, but at the same time providing foods that you know your child will like and eat

There are so many ways to improve children’s nutrition and encourage healthy eating and I shall be covering more topics relating to child health here on the blog.  

NB - Due to school’s no nut policy, I have not suggested any nuts or nut butters here. However, do include them when making packed lunches outside school, as they are a good source of protein and essential fats.

Photo credit: Yum boxes - www.eatwell-uk.co.uk

EatWell-uk sell Yum boxes and other storage ideas to help children (and adults) eat well. They have a real passion for healthy eating and I’m delighted to share a special offer in conjunction with them for readers of this blog: 20% off THE ENTIRE SITE. Just use this exclusive code at the checkout: nutritionforlife

Please note this post is not sponsored by EatWell-Uk (I have used them with great success with my own children and owner Sarah, is a local mum).