Healthy school lunch box ideas
It’s that time of the year again. Time to send the kids to back to school and get back into the routine of packing your child’s lunchbox. Does that excite you or daunt you? Do you find it difficult to think of healthy lunch box options?
If preparing lunch for your one or more kids five days a week is the ‘bane of your existence’ then read on. I have some tips that might make the whole process a little easier.
When it comes to kid’s lunch boxes there are a few important factors that ultimately influence what the day’s menu for your child may be.
- how easy it is
- how healthy it is
- how enjoyable and tasty it is
- how much it costs
With so many factors affecting the end decision, we often find ourselves very stuck for ideas. Kids are also not backwards in coming forwards about their displeasure at certain foods that we put in front of them. There can be lots of pressure to give them what they want but also find food that is easy to prepare, healthy and economical as well.
As parents, we are always conscious about ensuring our families eat healthy food, however, research has shown that ‘convenience’ trumps ‘healthy’ almost every time. There is also the added issue of ‘pester power’. The very persistent nagging by children for certain products, usually something they’ve seen advertised on TV, as you’re trying to do the grocery shopping.
With that said, all it takes is a bit of planning and organisation and you can make healthy food convenient. By spending a small amount of time at the beginning of the week getting the lunch box food prepared and ready to go, your children will have yummy, healthy food at school each and every day without the added stress of trying to pull it all together each morning.
Tip #1: Have a lunch box meal plan
At the beginning of the week write or type out the lunch box meal plan. You can download a free printable template here: Lunch Box Menu Planner. Write your shopping list at the same time so you can purchase everything you need for the week ahead. This eliminates last minute dashes to the supermarket and will save you heaps of time and money. Hang your completed lunch box planner on the fridge for everyone to see.
A meal plan is great because it puts you in control. The night before, all you need to do is refer to your plan and get everything packed and ready. When the busy morning comes around all the kids need to do is grab their lunch box out of the fridge.
A meal plan can also help your kids know whats coming up each day which may curb the pesky nagging or the constant asking about what’s for lunch. You can refer them onto the fridge for their answers (if they can read of course!).
Tip #2: Buy and cook in bulk
There’s no problem with your children having the same thing to eat every day. As long as you change it up every couple of weeks and they are getting plenty of variety throughout the day, there is no need to provide them with something different each and every lunch time. You are not an ‘a la cart’ restaurant and buying all those different ingredients can add up very quickly making your grocery bill quite expensive. If you want to make your kids something different every day, by all means, go ahead, I just don’t want you to feel that pressure. Rest assured that it’s Ok to repeat some meal ideas often if thats what works for you.
Buying and cooking in bulk for the week ahead can ensure that you have a healthy lunch all ready to go for each day of the week and can save you money because you only have to buy one set of ingredients.
Let’s say lunch is tuna pasta. On a Sunday afternoon, make up a double batch and put one serve into each of your storage containers. If you’ve got 2 kids, aim to make up to 8-10 serves of tuna pasta and keep them in the fridge or freezer. Each night, their lunch box preparation involves adding a serve of tuna pasta, a piece of fruit, a yoghurt and a water bottle. Lunch box done. Easy. You can do this with any number of recipes.
Tip #3: Keep it simple
When it comes to thinking about a healthy lunchbox, it’s best to keep it simple. Whole fresh food is best kind of food for children. Aim to keep processed and packaged food to a minimum, particularly if you’re concerned about additives such as sodium, flavourings and preservatives.
My personal preference is to make things myself. Muesli bars, biscuits, cakes and other pre-prepared lunch box foods are fine as small treats but you are much better off making them yourself. This way you know exactly whats in them. Use wholemeal flour instead of white, add grated carrots or apples, over ripe bananas, seeds, bran, dried fruit and high fibre breakfast cereals to your cooking to make them that little bit healthier. Have fun experimenting with different recipes, your kids wont be tough critics! And when you find something that does work, please share your success with other parents. We need to help each other out!
The important thing to remember in all of this is that getting into healthy routines and developing healthy habits takes time and practice. Once you find your family’s groove, putting healthy food in their lunch boxes and raising healthy eaters will become second nature if you’re consistent. Don’t give up!
Here are some lunch box ideas:
Lunch Box #1:
- wholemeal sandwich with vegemite and cheese
- carrot and celery sticks with hummus
- 1 blood orange and poppy seed muffin
Lunch Box #2:
- 1 serve of zucchini slice (use wholemeal flour to boost the fibre)
- apple slices with cheese
- 100g tub of yoghurt
- small handful of dried apricots
Lunch Box #3:
- Ham and cheese wrap with grated carrot, tomato, lettuce and avocado (mash avocado with a small amount of lemon juice to prevent it from going brown
- bag of grapes
- 1 muesli bar (Be Natural or Carmen’s are good brands)
- 2 quinoa and linseed balls (contains peanut butter so not suitable at some schools)
Lunch Box #4:
- Muesli and yoghurt cup (50g toasted muesli topped with 100g of yoghurt)
- Watermelon cubes
- Cheese slices and vita-wheat multigrain rice crackers
- Small tin of sweet corn (salt-reduced)
Lunch Box #5:
- Chicken and vegetable rice paper rolls with salt-reduced soy sauce for dipping
- Orange slices
- 1 slice of goji choc oat slice
- 2 vita-wheats with cream cheese or hummus
Lunch Box #6:
- multigrain sandwich with hummus, grated cheese and grated carrot
- 1 slice of homemade banana bread
- mixed salad of carrots, cherry tomatoes and cucumber
Lunch Box #7:
- can of baked beans (salt reduced)
- berry salad (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- 100g tub of custard
- Rice cakes with cheese and tomato slices
We have created many articles that are designed to help you to make packing lunch as simple as possible, here is a great resource: lunch packing tips and tricks.
Check out some more of my School Lunch Box Ideas over on HerCanberra.com.au