It’s that time of the year again for parents and carers of children, hate it or love it for whatever reasons, it happens whether or not we like it. Some of us love the carefree summers without a schedule or routine when kids and adults alike can relax a little as regards the food we eat and mealtimes schedules. But once school returns and the new lunchbox has been bought, it makes sense to be organised and have some kind of plan or menu ideas for feeding kids while they are at school.
I’m sure most you who have kids have been in the situation where the lunchbox comes home barely touched and you wonder why? For primary school kids I think the main thing is to keep them interested in helping you prepare school lunches and snacks and encourage them to make the healthier choice where possible as this will lay the foundation for a life of healthy eating.
Colourful fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherry tomatoes and grapes are the perfect size and veggies such carrots, celery and radish cut into manageable size pieces work well for eating alone or dipping into hummus or other dips & sauces. Pitta pockets are great for little hands to manage when they are cut in half and can be filled with tuna and sweetcorn, chicken, salad, eggs, ham, cheese or whatever filling you child prefers. Mini bread sticks are another great filler for lunchboxes and can again be dipped into sauces.
Dinner leftovers such as pasta or rice are a great way to reduce waste and another option other than bread or baked goods. In the past I typically cooked more pasta or rice than was needed for dinner with school lunches in mind and then added some tomato sauce, grated vegetables and cheese for a tasty satisfying lunch.
A favourite lunch for my kids when they were younger was savoury mini egg muffins. You can cook a batch in advance with different flavours and fillings keeping them in the fridge for a couple of days. Here’s a simple and quick recipe which is both tasty and nutritious and won’t be left in the lunchbox.
Pesto & Spinach
6 large eggs
½ chopped onion sautéed
3 tablespoons green pesto
20g cooked spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 180c and grease your muffin tin very well.
- Whisk the eggs in a bowl add in the sautéed onion and season to taste.
- Spoon about a teaspoon of pesto and a small amount of spinach in the each muffin hollows Pour the egg mixture on top, leaving ¼ inch from the top( room to expand). Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. If in doubt insert a toothpick and if it comes out clean they are cooked. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
To make the ham and cheese version do exactly the same but substituting the pesto and spinach with a tablespoon of grated cheese and chopped ham.
By the time kids get older and start secondary school they probably on the most part make their own lunches or at least are in control of what they eat. Let’s face it they may have a little money and are walking to school themselves, so they have access to all types of snacks and lunch options. At this stage they most likely have tasted a wider variety of cuisines and flavours so it’s time to up the lunchbox stake’s with healthier homemade versions of the trendy foods they like to eat such as burritos, tacos, noodles, Asian cuisine and pizza. Bao buns filled with pulled pork or chicken and crunchy vegetables is a delicious and healthy way to keep any discerning teens happy.
Little healthier treats such as oat flapjacks, mini pancakes or homemade biscuits are a far better option than crisps or chocolate as many schools have now introduced a healthy eating program for schooling children. Seeds and nuts are fantastic healthy treats especially on top of yogurts, salads and dips. Always be aware there may be guidelines set in place within your childs school for other pupils with nut or other allergies.
Water is always the best option but by adding some fruits such as oranges, limes and strawberries to the refillable bottles makes it more interesting.
There are so many great options for lunchboxes with different compartments and pull out sections like bento boxes so everything is not jumbled up and mushed together. A great idea to keep the lunchbox cool is to pop in a small tub of frozen yogurt in and by the time its lunchtime the yogurt has defrosted and ready to eat.
FEATURE WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Oppermann