5 days, 5 ways: School lunchbox ideas
It’s time to start packing school lunchboxes again – but sending the kids off with tasty, healthy food doesn’t have to feel like a chore.
Health coach and blogger Sharon Selby says lunch boxes are a great way to sneak extra nutrients into kids’ diets.
“Lunch boxes make up a third of our children’s diet, so it’s important they’re filled with nutrients that will help them focus and keep their gut health in check,” she says.
- Dad’s tips: How to pack the perfect school lunch
- On a mission: The mum tackling food allergies head-on
Get ahead with meal prep
Planning and preparing ahead is key – but those prep sessions don’t need to be daunting or take up half of your weekend either.
“I’ll take five minutes to work out the weekly family meal plan and create leftovers for delicious lunch boxes. That way I’m not cooking separately for dinners and lunch boxes,” Sharon says.
Sharon says dishes that are “one-bowl wonders” are essential for kitchen novices.
“It saves time chopping up, washing up, requires little cooking skills and keeps things very simple for multi-tasking parents,” she says.
Doing big batches is also a great way to save time, Sharon says.
“I often do a double or triple batch. This way I end up with a freezer stash of leftovers. Often I’ll have weeks where I do no preparation at all,” Sharon says.
Top tips to avoid a school lunchbox rut
Flavour is key to keeping things interesting, says Sharon.
“I love changing up flavours with spices and herbs, then changing the protein but using the same method. We might have beef and parsley burgers one week, lamb and mint koftas the next, then pork and apple mini burgers,” she says.
“The same applies with schnitzels – use chicken, pork or fish. Reinventing leftovers is also a good way to keep things interesting.”
Sharon says many children don’t eat the daily recommended intake of vegetables.
“I get so excited seeing my kids eat vegetables they wouldn’t normally eat or think they don’t like by sneaking them into their food,” she says.
“Burgers are especially easy to do this as I’ll add celery, zucchini, blitzed broccoli or asparagus.”
Sharon says cut-up fresh fruit and vegetables as well as water is the best way to round out a lunch box.
Use an ice block on hotter days to keep everything fresh.
She says it is worth checking with your school about what foods, like nuts, are banned or discouraged.
“For children with allergies, parents not only need to avoid certain foods, they also have the added pressure to ensure meals are nutritious,” she says.
Five-day lunchbox planner
Wholemeal wraps or sandwiches filled with cheese and salad, chicken and avocado, and quality meats make excellent lunch meals to keep busy brains firing the whole day.
But if you’re looking for some more inspiring lunchbox creations, try these ideas:
- Lunch: Mini Beef Burgers
- Snacks: Carrot sticks and dip (try this Quick and Easy Artichoke Dip), apple, cheese sticks, mixed berries.
- Lunch: Paleo Chicken Schnitzels
- Snacks: Rockmelon balls, yoghurt, unsalted popcorn, orange wedges.
- Lunch: Spag Bol Squares
- Snacks: Surprise Japanese Rice Balls, boiled egg, cheese cubes and wholegrain crackers, mandarin.
- Lunch: Quinoa, Pea and Ricotta Frittatas
- Snacks: Carrot Cake Bliss Balls, mini-tomatoes, nectarine or peach, yoghurt with strawberries
- Lunch: Kid Favourite Allergy-Friendly Chicken Nuggets
- Snacks: Sally Obermeder’s Sugar-Free Banana Bread, broccoli florets, rice crackers and tzatziki, kiwi fruit.
Help your child get ready for school:
- Seven ways to help your primary school child prepare for school
- 10 ways to help your child excel at school
- Five ways to help your child deal with bullying
- Could Omega-3s improve kids’ behaviour?
Written by Sally Heppleston.