As schools start back, many parents will be deciding whether to go along the school meal or packed lunch route. School dinners have much improved since Jamie Oliver’s campaign first started and most schools now provide an easy way for your child to get a healthy meal every day, with menus planned and cooked according to nutritional guidelines.
For some parents and children, however, packed lunches remain the preferred choice and so it’s essential that they provide the healthiest solution to lunchtime munchies.
Lunch box ready – let your child choose a box that they’ll love using but is also easy to clean and easy to spot in the lunchtime rush. Invest in small plastic containers with lids and write their names on with permanent ink. Prepare food on the day or the night before, whatever suits your routine best.
Avoid lunchbox boredom by keeping the contents varied. Alternate wraps, pitta bread, rolls or sliced bread, choosing wholegrain and seeded versions for a change. By using different fillings, you’ll have umpteen combinations to try: go for tinned salmon (for the omega 3) or tuna in light mayo, lean ham, thin slices of cheddar, cottage cheese or houmous. Small slices of chicken or beef left over from your Sunday dinner are great for Monday’s sandwiches.
Fruit and veg are a must – get them crunching on vitamin and mineral-rich carrot sticks, baby sweetcorn, mangetout and mini ‘trees’ of lightly cooked broccoli or cauliflower. If you’re slicing tomatoes, peppers or other veg the night before, do a few extra for next day’s lunchbox. They’ll get two of their 5-a-day if you also provide some fruit, so add grapes, sliced kiwi, melon chunks, tinned mandarins or a small banana.
Salad solutions – mix couscous, pasta or rice with sweetcorn, chopped tomato, cucumber and other veg; then add salmon, tuna or kidney beans for protein with some low-fat dressing for a tasty salad that you can share out in all the family’s lunchboxes.
Sweet treats – a cereal bar, low-fat yoghurt, malt bread or a small bag of dried apricots, cranberries and raisins will satisfy that sweet tooth. Save chocolate bars and crisps for an occasional treat at home, especially if that healthy lunchbox was gobbled up at lunch time.
Thirst quenchers – nothing beats water so add a bottle of still or sparkling water but you can offer 100% fruit juices or smoothies for a change.
If packed lunches are the way forward in your household, then give your young ones the best: let them tuck into a box that’s bursting with goodness for healthy, happy hearts and minds.