It is not easy preparing an interesting, tasty lunchbox day in and day out for your children. It is even more of a challenge to come up with one which you can be sure they will eat rather than swapping contents with their friends or disposing of the bits they did not fancy before they get home. Add to that the need for the lunchbox to be nutritious, and it is easy to see how parents feel like preparing the perfect lunchbox is mission impossible.
We say think again. No one seriously expects your offering to be nutritionally spot-on everyday and most health experts will agree it is a balancing act of satisfying likes and dislikes as well as health. Below we outline five lunchboxes, which are a good starting point and each have all the five key elements that we should try to include these are foods like meat, fish, eggs, cheese or beans for body building protein. A healthy carbohydrate like bread, pitta, pasta or a tortilla wrap for energy. A source of bone-building calcium like a yoghurt, some fruit and vegetables, preferably one of each, and a healthy drink. It is a good template to work to. Give it a go.
- Pitta bread stuffed with tuna mayonnaise (using extra low fat mayonnaise) with finely chopped cucumber, a satsuma, a fruit yoghurt and a half-orange-juice-half-water drink.
Treat: A slice of malt loaf.
- A ham sandwich using 50:50 bread (half-white and half-wholemeal) with cherry tomatoes, an apple, a small chunk of cheese and a bottle of water.
Treat: An oat bar.
- A tortilla wrap stuffed with chicken and sweetcorn mixed with reduced-fat salad cream, some cucumber sticks on the side and a pear, plus a fromage frais and a bottle of water.
Treat: A multipack fruit scone.
- A granary bread roll with peanut butter and
slices of tomato and lettuce, a banana, a fruit yoghurt and an orange juice.
Treat: A small plain fruit bun.
- A pasta salad with pasta bows, prawns and chopped tomatoes, a nectarine and a handful
of almonds plus a bottle of water.
Treat: A packet of baked crisps.
When it comes to putting the theory into practice, here are some of my top tips for ensuring lunch boxes are ready and waiting to be packed into the school bag for the morning dash out of the door.
- If buying a house is all about location, location, location, assembling a healthy lunchbox is about planning, planning and planning. You can’t leave it to chance and throw it together with ‘what you have in the fridge’. Draw up your list of lunches for the week, shop for what you need and stick to the plan.
- Remember that a packed lunch is still one of your child’s main meals of the day. Just because it isn’t a hot meal, does not mean that it is any way less important. The nutrients they eat at lunchtime will help to power them through the afternoon ahead.
- Make time to prepare the lunchbox. If mornings are a mad panic, either set your alarm for earlier to give yourself the extra time you need to make the box up, or prepare what you can the night before.
- Have regular chats with your children to make sure they like and are eating what you are preparing. Make changes and be flexible where you can. There is no point packing things that get a nutritional 10 out of 10 if they aren’t being eaten. Compromise can sometimes be the best way forward.
- Check with your children’s school about lunchbox policy. Some are very strict and allow no treats, others have ones they believe are acceptable. Fall in with the policy, no child likes to be singled out for ‘contraband’ in their lunchbox.