With a new school year comes the return of the lunchbox dramas – striking the perfect balance between a healthy spread, choices that the kids will actually eat, items that can fit and last the whole day in a lunchbox, and ones that are quick and easy to prepare. Before you surrender and resort to lunch orders, give these nifty lunchbox tips and tricks a shot!
Follow a formula
A balanced lunch is considered to contain a protein or main item, fruit, vegetables and something fun. Use this guideline to ensure a balance of all the food groups are packed into the lunchbox, and a variety of options to keep the kids interested.
Get the kids involved
Children are more likely to eat good food and make healthy food choices when they’re involved in getting food ready. Give them the opportunity to join you in making their lunches the night before as part of their daily schedule, or let them make their own lunch occasionally.
Keep it easy
The key to having the kids finish most of what’s in their lunchboxes is to provide food that is easy for them to eat. For example, if their fingers struggle to peel a mandarin, peel it at home so it’s ready to go at lunchtime.
Make lunch exciting
Just like adults, kids need something a bit different or exciting to get motivated to eat a healthier lunch, so changing up the menu in simple ways (such as varying between dips like hummus, yoghurt or even cream cheese for their fruits and veggies, or presenting their cut fruits or sandwiches in different ways) can offer a fun alternative that they can look forward to.
Chop vegetable sticks or dice fruit while you are prepping dinner, which will save you time in the morning. Using bento-box style lunchboxes can also be a huge help as the different sized compartments allow you to portion out how much of an item you should put in.
Make a little extra for dinner, using the leftovers as a lunch option. Fried rice, pasta or salad make great additions to the lunchbox. If you want to go a bit fancier for the older kids, you could put leftover soup or stew in a thermos that will keep it hot during the school day.
Plan a baking session
Add homemade baked muffins or biscuits (which can be healthier alternatives to store-bought ones) to lunchboxes for a treat. Allowing your child to pack a treat in their lunchbox that they made themselves will also get them excited for lunchtime.
Keep it cool
It’s important to pack foods and snacks that will stay fresh for the duration of a school day. Add a freezer block to lunch bags to keep the food fresh all day, or freeze fruits and yoghurt packs overnight so they’re thawed by lunchtime and act as ice blocks as well.
Plan for success
Before you head out for your weekly shop, get the children involved in their lunchbox menu for the week and add these items to your shopping list. This will not only minimise emergency trips to the supermarket on a school night, it also helps the kids look forward to tucking into their favourite meals at lunchtime.