Do you find yourself packing your kids the same old boring sandwich, crisps and fruit? How about starting the new term with a brand new menu?
Sandwiches don’t have to be boring. Be imaginative with the fillings and try to vary what you give them. Try “pizza sandwich” (cheese and tomato) or use up leftovers from the night before with a cold sausage sandwich. Vary the bread by using baguettes, wraps and bagels.
Another way to liven up sandwiches is to stamp a picture into the top of the bread by pressing on top lightly with a cookie cutter until an imprint is left behind.
If your kids don’t really like sandwiches, or fancy a change, why not try a pasta salad? Just cook up some pasta, which could be leftovers from the day before, and stir through chopped tomatoes, sweetcorn and cooked meat like ham or chicken. You could also use tuna with low fat mayo or plain yoghurt instead of tomato. Rice and cous cous salads are also nice ideas. This is a really good way to add some fruit and vegetables to the box in an imaginative way.
People think crisps are unhealthy but they really don’t have to be. Look for brands with a low saturated fat content (less than 1g in a bag) and low salt content (less than 0.5g in a bag). There are loads of baked snacks available which are lower in fat and very popular with children. You can also buy fruit and vegetable crisps which can be healthier and count as a fruit or vegetable portion. Alternatives to crisps include popcorn, which is now available in loads of flavours, and rice cakes. Try to let your children have a say and choose what they would like, and again try to vary what you give them.
Cakes are another food people think should never belong in a lunchbox but there are some healthy choices. Look for cakes with less than 100 calories per serving and a low saturated fat content (less than 1g) and sugar content (less than 10g). Biscuits are exactly the same – not all biscuits are bad. Good alternatives to cakes and biscuits are cereal bars, but they aren’t all as healthy as you think. Follow the same guidelines I gave above for cakes and be wary of bars with lots of added yoghurt or chocolate.
It’s really important kids drink so give them a drink they’ll look forward to in their lunch. Obvious choices are fruit smoothies and juices but also consider no-added-sugar squash and flavoured water, along with an actual fruit portion. Eating the fruit instead of drinking it means your child gets more of the vitamins and fibre. Also remember they need calcium, so look for milkshakes made with semi-skimmed milk, which are often available in single serve cartons and bottles. There are several ranges with very low sugar levels and added vitamins and minerals.
Kids get bored easily. It’s a fact. This means you need to keep their lunchbox varied. Some unusual lunch ideas include:
- Chopped carrots, cucumbers and peppers with a dip like yoghurt, salsa, hummus or just chopped tomatoes with some added herbs
- Look at the party range at your local store and buy some mini quiches or sausage rolls
- Pack a little pot of cereal your child can eat without milk – go for the slightly bigger ones as they’re easier to eat!
- “Cheese and tomato swirls” – buy a bread mix or make your own dough, roll it out and spread with tomato sauce and grated cheese. Roll up like a swiss roll then chop lengthways into little circles and bake
- Hard boil and egg and slice it up
- A little pot of jelly or angel delight with fruit – again these are thought of as unhealthy but you can buy sugar-free versions and can make angel delight with fat-free milk
- Low fat rice pudding – buy or make your own with low fat milk and add some chopped tinned apple or a spoonful of jam or honey
- Mini cheese portions
When making your child’s lunch, remember they’re often desperate to eat it quickly so they can go and play so keep it easy to eat. Try to avoid waste by using re-useable plastic pots instead of sandwich bags. You can also reuse old food containers like butter packets and yoghurt pots to pack up lunches!
I hope this article has given you a few tips to make your child’s lunch more exciting this term.