We all want our children to have a healthy lunch to sustain them throughout their entire school day. Agree? The trouble is, sometimes our idea of healthy doesn’t match their idea of tasty (or cool!) or they get bored of the same thing every day. So I’d like to share some inspiration by way of examples of what I send in my children’s lunchboxes (aged 9, 6 and 2 1/2), as well as share some tips to make sure it gets eaten.
Just a quick note, for those who aren’t familiar with what currently guides us in our food journey. Under advice from our Naturopath, Lachlan (aged 9) should avoid consuming products containing: Gluten, Dairy (but we can use goats milk products), Yeast, Cane Sugar, Preservatives, Pork, Melon, Peanuts, Red Foods (ie a green apple, not a red one), Crustaceans and Mushrooms. To cater to his needs, the entire family has placed a greater focus on choosing mostly whole foods, but not all of us have eliminated dairy or gluten completely from our diet.
5 days of healthy school lunches:
Leftover skinless sausages with salad. We have been avoiding sausages due to preservatives etc but upon Lachlan’s request for sausages, this is what we came up with for dinner one night. We essentially made rissoles, shaped like sausages. A little out-of-the-box thinking lead to a VERY happy boy! “These sausages taste really good!”
A mixture of fruit; Yogurt topped with the crumbs lelftover from ‘muesli bars’ that I had made (yes, I managed to save them from the kids :-P)
Fav-va Nuts Roasted Broadbeans (available in the health food section of Woolworths and in some health food stores. I have not checked, but you may find them at other supermarkets. Also available as Roasted Chickpeas).
Shredded Chicken with salad (this is somewhat a staple in our house but we try to mix it up a bit with different salad/protein ingredients).
Fruit; Mango Smoothie in Sinchie (approx. 50/50 mango and coconut youghurt).
Plain chips. Due to our food (and also budget) restrictions, we do not purchase Tuckshop for our children. Our small school has Tuckshop once per week. On this day, I usually send a packet of plain chips so that my children feel like they are still having a treat.
Tuna & crackers. I usually mix a little mayo, salt and pepper with the tuna and my children like to eat it with plain rice crackers. NOTE: Sometimes I add some grated vegetables or sauerkraut to the tuna if I’m not adding the vegetables separately as sticks. On this occasion, I added some shallot.
Vegetable and cheese sticks.
Yoghurt topped with some seeds and preservative-free dried fruit.
Fruit (Nicholas goes to Family Day Care a few days per week and they enjoy a shared fruit break, so his fruit is sent whole).
Boiled eggs with vegetable and cheese sticks.
Fruit; Yoghurt in sinchie.
Mix of almonds, seeds and preservative-free dried fruit (omit almonds if nuts are not permitted at your child’s school).
Salted Caramel Popcorn Slice (made with puffed buckwheat instead of popcorn as that’s what I had in my pantry). The recipe can be found in the book Cut out the Crap – Lunchbox Solutions by Collette White.
Yoghurt in Sinchie.
How I keep it all fresh:
When I share pictures of what I send for my children to my Facebook Page, my followers want to know how I keep it all fresh/cold for them. This is what I do, and it seems to work for us: I simply use esky bricks and an insulated lunchbox.
*Please excuse the blurry photo, I only have my iPhone available to use as a camera!
5 Tips to ensure that your efforts aren’t in vain:
- Leave out the problem foods. If there is a food that you know your child typically does not eat, leave it out. If they will not eat it at home, they are unlikely to eat it at school/daycare. I can remember my mother sending an apple most days in my lunchbox, and almost every day it would come home untouched. Why? I just wasn’t a fan of apples. The days that I was given some grapes or a banana, I would eat my fruit. If there is a food that you would like your child to have another try of, I recommend doing this at home to avoid the frustration (and waste) of it not being eaten at school.
- Leave out new foods. I recommend not packing foods that you know your child has not tried before. I always offer new foods to my children when they are at home (or at least on an occasion that I am with them – or Grandma is eg). This way you know if it will get eaten or not, and you do not have to send extra food for if they do not like it or do not want to try it.
- Variety. Are you guilty of getting stuck in the sandwich rut? In my house I hear “not salad again…” So, I try to mix it up a bit where I can. We buy purple cabbage or purple carrots from time to time to shred and include in our salads – my children love the colour change! Instead of chicken, we sometimes have leftover roast meat or rissoles or tuna (or see our skinless sausage idea in Day 1). Some days I send the salad on a wrap or make the wrap from the salad! (large, broad lettuce leaves can be used as wraps). I try to mix and match the fruit and other snacks also (and maybe you could involve them by asking which fruit or snack they would like). I have also joined some facebook groups for inspiration and check them out from time to time (you should be able to find some groups by searching ‘lunchbox’).
- Presentation. Some children may be persuaded by pretty presentation. There are many tools and gadgets available these days that allow you to cut sandwiches, cheese or vegetables into creative shapes; to secure foods (eg wraps) with; and store the food in (think bento style lunchboxes and reusable food wrapping and containers). There are often examples of ‘pretty’ lunchboxes on the facebook groups, if you’d like to check them out.
- Super powers! Did you ever refer to broccoli as trees to get your children to eat them? This concept is similar, you can rename foods to give them super powers! In our early days, while following a FAILSAFE diet, one of the only packaged foods that I could send in Lachlan’s lunchbox was roasted chickpeas (like the FAV-VA broadbeans pictured in Day 1). Some of his peers used to turn their noses up at him because his snack was different. I was super (hehe) impressed with Lachlan when he decided to rename them. The name was so much cooler than super-beans, but for simplicity (because I can’t remember) we will stick with that. He used to be excited to take them to school and told the kids all about the special super powers he would gain from eating them!
BONUS TIP! If all else fails (and depending on the age of your child), the BEST approach is to help your child to understand WHY these foods are good for them and why they should eat them. I recently came across the idea of referring to foods as ‘foods for fuel’ or ‘foods for fun’ (rather than saying they are good or bad, healthy or unhealthy).
I hope you have found some inspiration in this post and, of course, if you have any other tips for parents looking for ideas, please share them in the comments 🙂