Having to make your child’s lunch in advance five days a week can be a challenge sometimes especially if you want to make it healthy as it’s easy to send them to school with a sandwich, crisps & a chocolate bar or piece of fruit!! And when you get the lunch box back at the end of the day to find the fruit is still in there, a bit more bruised but still un-eaten.
The key to coming up with healthy pack lunches is variety, so the child doesn’t get bored but also helps them to try new foods. Also theme lunches are a great way to get your child interested in food so it could be themed around countries of the world, calendar events, colours; the only limitation is imagination.
Sticking with the traditional sandwich well sort of try experimenting with:
Different types of bread – Sundried tomato, herb & garlic, olive, wholegrain, multigrain, seeded, rye, sour dough, ciabatta, pitta
Wraps/tortillas – You can easily make these yourself but if time is short, there are many varieties available at all the major supermarkets
Scone based sandwich – I remember mum sending me to school with a three cheese scone & some cherry tomatoes & it was delicious
English muffin type bread – any these can be homemade or bought, the cheese ones are especially lovely
Savoury muffins – cheese & bacon, sundried tomato
So that’s the bread sorted what about fillings:
It doesn’t matter what you fill the sandwich with but the one principle I’d stick to is to ensure there is some protein within the filling – protein helps you stay fuller for longer & and releases energy slower (so you’re less likely to get a sugar high).
Pulled meats are easy as can be made in advance or are leftovers from a meal
Homous or other bean based dips make a great alternative to butter or spread, if you’re child isn’t keen on them, try adding red pesto to it to make it slightly sweeter.
Cheese – a good protein source but high in saturated fat, so try grating it up and mixing with grated vegetables such as carrot.
Mini meatballs with a tomato sauce – you could get your children to help you make these, cook the night before & then slice in half, add to sandwich with a little sauce for flavour. These work really well as a pasta salad too.
Use lamb mince to make mini kofta balls and make a minted yogurt dip to go with it.
Marinate chopped chicken in a barbeque sauce, cook as you would for a barbeque and then serve with a yogurt and tomato dip and salad.
Animal source – Meat, fish, poultry, diary, egg
Vegetable source – Beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, tofu, quorn
Alternatives to sandwiches:
Rice/pasta/couscous/bulgar wheat salad: A handy tip to add more flavour to these without the need to add mayo or other sauces is to cook in a light stock (Chicken or vegetable).
Anything goes here really with flavours, chopped up or grated vegetables and of course some protein!!
Greek – feta, olives, cucumber & minted yogurt
Rainbow – Red, yellow, orange & green pepper, grated cheese
Italian – Tomato, basil & mozzarella (use pesto to flavour it)
Vegetable sticks & dip or pate is another idea to add variety:
Vegetables that can be eaten raw:
- Mange Tout
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Cherry tomatoes
Roasting vegetables can be used to add interest to sandwiches or salads:
Onions, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, aubergines
Root vegetables are also lovely roasted & can be used in a salad:
Carrot, butternut squash, sweet potato, mini potatoes.
Most children like yogurts especially fruit ones but most shop bought fruit yogurts are quite high in sugar, I would personally recommend that you buy natural yogurt and then add your own flavours to it, this will be cheaper too and more adaptable!!
Here are some ideas for fruit compotes which can be used in a variety of ways but make a great homemade fruit yogurt:
Mixed berry – mixed frozen berries, stewed in a little water and something to sweeten it, I use agave nectar but honey or sugar is fine, just don’t make it too sweet or you could use apple juice to do the job of the water & sugar.
Rhubarb on its own or with a little ginger if you’re children like it – same as above but using fresh rhubarb when in season
Apple & berry – use the mixed frozen berries with some chopped apple and again the same method is used as above
Apple & raisin
Pear & dried friut
Spiced apple – chopped apple, mixed spice and then use the same method as before
Peach & apricot
Tropical – Use the tropical fruit mix and stew gentle like above, you probably don’t need to add any sugar to this one though
Either mix them before you put in the lunch box or let your child make their own (A bit like a branded two part corner yogurt)
Homemade flapjacks or granola can be used to add texture to yogurt and another snack for children to munch on.