By Gillian Thompson
During the hectic rush of school mornings, packing a healthy and interesting packed lunch for your kids can be quite a challenging task.
If you often find yourself stuck in a rut of making endless rounds of cheese or ham sandwiches, delicious as they may be, they can get rather boring five days a week, four weeks a month!
So here are a few tips to get you packing like a pro:
1. Research and plan ahead. Research new and healthy ways of feeding your kids that you can fit into a lunch box and that they will actually enjoy eating. Pinterest is great for gathering inspiration. Or take a look at my blog post, “No Sandwich Packed Lunch Ideas”, where I have listed and linked to more than 20 tried and tested recipes. Once you’ve gathered ideas, make a weekly plan and stick it on the fridge for all to see.
2. Be organized. Get everything ready the night before, or at least know what you’re going to be packing so that you don’t have to think too hard in the morning. Rushed school mornings are normally not conducive to creativity!
3. Use up leftovers. Leftover chicken or beef can be used as sandwich fillings the next day or as the protein of choice for a noodle or rice-based dish. Leftover pasta dishes such as chicken pasta pesto work just great heated or cold.
4. Stock your freezer. Have healthy, homemade or good-quality shop-bought brownies, muffins and cupcakes in the freezer. Put them in the lunch box in the morning straight from freezer and they will be perfectly defrosted by lunchtime. This chocolate brownie recipe by Nigella Lawson freezes a treat and is an all-time family favourite.
5. Have a dedicated snack cupboard (preferably out of reach of little hands). I love to stock up on savoury snacks such as small bags of pretzels, ritz biscuits and pitta chips. Marks & Spencers is a dream if you’re looking for healthy and tasty packed lunch items.
6. Fill a fruit bowl. I like to include two fruits, or a vegetable and a fruit in my kids’ lunches every day, so I make sure I always have a variety of fruit to hand. Dried fruit also counts as one of their five-a-day, so if your strawberries have turned to mush overnight, then dried fruits such as mangos, raisins and apricots are all great alternatives.
7. Follow the “rule of five”. Try to include at least one of the following five food groups in each packed lunch:
– Carbs (bread, rice, pasta, noodles, couscous, quinoa, potato, wraps & tortillas)
– Protein (eggs, meat, seeds, pulses, egg, beans, fish, tofu)
– Dairy (cheese, yoghurt or milk drinks)
– Fruit or vegetables (carrots and dips, olives, cucumber and pepper slices, celery, peas or corn, edamame, lettuce or greens, sliced fruit, fruit pouches, dried fruit, or fruit juice)
– Treat (granola bar, brownies, cookies, crisps, pretzels, muffins, jellies, puddings, etc)
8. Invest in sturdy boxes. Have a set of safe, leak-free, reusable containers, a thermos for hot lunches and some simple tupperware-type boxes with dividers for cold food. The Japanese bento-style boxes are really cute too.
Got you inspired but need more fuel?
Want more detail on lunch boxes and where to buy them from, or a list of healthy packed lunch ideas that don’t include a single sandwich? Head over to my website (gillianskitchen.com) where I have a growing list of over 20 tried-and-tested no-sandwich recipes with links.
Gillian Thompson is a long-term ex- DB resident with a passion for good food. Her website, Gillian’s Kitchen, contains a plethora of simple, no-fuss, everyday recipes for the whole family, including full meal plans and lots of top tips. For more information, visit gillianskitchen.com.
Images: Gillian Thompson