This may sound a little nuts, but I often find myself staring at the empty bowels of my child’s lunchbox and wondering what on Earth I should put in it. Even my shop run has me staring at things and pondering its value, healthiness and whether or not my child will eat it.
I am also pressed for time. Mornings start off nicely enough with some staggering towards the coffee pot and bleary-eyed breakfast making but they tend to end up as this insane gallop towards the door that usually involves us forgetting something important.
So today, after yet another blank stare at the lunchbox I decided to investigate clever, cost effective and fun things to do with your child’s lunch. Hopefully just one of these ideas will help you in one of those inspiration-free moments, and ensure that your kids are getting some of their five a day, no junk food, and lots of nutrition!
1. The Carbohydrates
Now my child has an odd relationship with sandwiches. Sometimes she will eat them and want more. Most times she just won’t eat them. We keep putting them in her lunchbox and she keeps bringing them back home, albeit a bit squashed.
Desperate to make sure my child gets her fibre and carbs which she needs to cope with long days and exercise, I came up with some cunning plans. Let your child choose their “bread of the week” and guide them towards wholegrain or seeded loaves as these are far better for you than white.
Look at alternatives like pitta bread, naans, wraps, and even oatcakes and rice cakes to spice up their lunchbox. If your child likes pasta, try whipping up a pasta salad over the weekend and dishing it out daily. This can include many of their much-needed five a day too so everybody wins!
Involve your child in the process. Get them to choose which veg they want in their pasta salad or their sandwiches, let them decide what kind of pasta you cook, and let them squeeze the mayo in. Help them to develop a relationship with the food so they are more likely to want to eat it.
Make sandwich faces by placing a ham base with peppers as a mouth and eyes before slicing it and packing it away. Kids love opening their sandwiches and putting the face back together before chowing down.
2. The Fruit
Tinned fruit, while heavily sweetened with the syrup, are actually as beneficial as the real deal. Sure, the sugary syrup is not that great, but as a treat to bulk up their five a day this is a winner. You can also whip up seasonal fruit salads in a large bowl that you can scoop out every day – saving you time and money.
Another idea is to make your own smoothies. Nab the special offer fruit at your local shop and blend them with natural yoghurt to create healthy and tasty drinks that will not just offer a five a day treat but will also help growing bones. These can also be prepared in advance so you don’t spend hours preparing lunch.
Avoid spending money on individually packed boxes of raisins, sultanas or other dried fruit. These are a lot more expensive than just buying them in bulk and packaging them in Tupperware. It is also far more environmentally friendly and will last longer.
Homemade fruit jelly is a great hit with the kids. Whip up some jelly, get sugar-free if you prefer, and chop in some yummy fruit for a very healthy snack that will definitely get eaten up fast.
3. The Veg
Make a mad salad and get the kids involved. Throw in tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, celery and other scrummy veg to make a delicious and healthy snack. However, instead of slicing them up the usual way, cut them in crazy shapes to add a sense of fun. Again, these items can often be nabbed in 2 for 1 deals or last minute sales (beware the dates, though, and eat them fast to avoid waste).
4. The Calcium
Cheese, milk, yoghurt – these items are excellent for growing bodies and fit neatly into lunchboxes. Look out for bulk buy discounts on lunchbox ready cheeses, or make your own squares or strips to fit into the box. Fromage Frais, yoghurt pots, hummus with breadsticks – these are also lovely options worth considering.
While many of these ideas may seem pretty obvious to you, I was amazed at how much more my child ate when I did the research and put more thought into it. I asked other mums for their ideas (they are included here) and I have had far fewer full lunchboxes come home.
Now I am off to make fruit jelly, such a genius idea and so darn simple. I wish I’d thought of that before…