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School lunches made easy in 4 simple steps.

back to school.jpgSchool lunches made easy!

It can be discouraging when lunches come home intact and uneaten. It's also a challenge to come up with new ideas to include in the school lunch box everyday of the week - especially ones that will get eaten!

 

Follow our 4 simple steps to getting creative with school lunches - variety is the key!


STEP 1: The basics

Understanding what constitutes an 'ideal' lunch box

 

A healthy lunch box needs to give children enough energy to fuel their body and brain for the 5 or 6 hours that they are at school. To provide everything a child needs for energy and growth, check you have something from each of these groups:

 

Energy Food - bread, crackers, pasta

Sustaining Food - cheese, milk, yoghurt, lean meat, nuts

Fruit & Vegetables

A treat Food - opt for healthier options

AND of course a drink bottle - water for hydration throughout the day!

STEP 2: What are the options?

Choose from the following categories.

 

Now that you know what should be in there, make a list of options that you think your child/children will like.  Make the list as long as possible and keep it on the fridge - that way you can keep referring to it every week without having to do any more thinking. If your kids tend to be 'fussy eaters' it can be a good idea to try out some of the new foods at home first!


If you are after gluten free options I have included lots below.  The other thing to remember is that gluten free bread is actually quite nice toasted (a bit dry untoasted) but works well for mini pizza's, crispies or jaffles.
 
Energy Food
Generally carbohydrate based to provide energy for the body & mind
Usually forms the 'lunch' part of the meal rather than the snack
I have included 'wheat free' options - gluten or allergy affected kids
If opting for a carbohydrate free lunch try and include a carbohydrate based snack (i.e. muffin, crackers, rice based)
Sustaining Food - cheese, milk, yoghurt, nuts, lean meat
Generally protein based to ensure 'lasting energy'
Try & include one serve from this group as either:
       Part of the  'energy food' (i.e. filling for sandwich)
       Or as a snack - it may constitute as the 'treat' portion as per below
Jaffles (toasted sandwiches made with whole-grain bread or fruit toast) eaten cold :
  • Savoury eg cheese & tomato
  • Sweet eg apple & cinnamon
Homemade pizza (left over) or made from split pita breads the night before
Cheese crispie - slice bread into strips, spread with marmite, sprinkle with cheese, & oven bake until crisp
Left over fried rice (store in a good quality thermos)
Brown rice salad with currants, nuts, celery, grated carrot
Left over pasta, risotto
Soup in a thermos (again a good quality thermos)
Mini meatballs with a small container of tomato sauce
Vegetable patties - corn fritters, grated vege patties
Sushi
Quiche or frittata baked in large muffin tins

Vita-Weet crackers with peanut butter or vegemite
Wraps with ham, carrot, humus (cut diagonally)
Stuffed pita pocket
2 x mini bagels filled with ham & cheese
Fruit/walnut bread with a thin spread of light cream cheese
A small grain roll as an alternative to bread

A vegemite roll-up (cut the crusts off the sandwich and roll up)
  • Purely offering it in a different format makes it perceived as being different & fun
Hummus (as a dip or part of a sandwich/pita bread)
Peanut butter
Ham or any other lean meat option as part of the sandwich or as a snack on the side
Cottage cheese (as a dip or part of a sandwich/pita bread)

Favourite yoghurt frozen overnight
Cheese triangle
Flavoured milk frozen overnight
Fruit & Vegetables
Mix it up - fruit can be served fresh, canned or dried
Cut up into smaller segments/pieces as it is more likely to get eaten
Cut up veges can be a great for kids that love savoury more than sweet

 
A treat Food - opt for healthier options
This generally forms the 'snack' portion of the lunch box
Homemade or supermarket bought options are good

Make in large batches and store in the freezer (great time saver)
Vegetable based:
Cold, cooked corn on the cob in small bite sized chunks
Cut up carrot/capsicum sticks with a little pottle of humus
Celery sticks filled with peanut butter

Fruit based:
Pottle of canned fruit (include a spoon)
Any fruit in season cut up into smaller pieces (drizzle with lemon juice if worried about turning brown)
A small bag of dried fruit (mix up the options)
Fruit jelly - set chopped fruit in homemade jelly or half juice & water
Fruit yoghurt - add chopped fruit to honey yoghurt or swirl honey & frozen berries through natural yoghurt. Chill or freeze.
Frozen orange quarters
Apple/banana/blueberry/ carrot mini muffins
Date & walnut loaf with a thin spread of cream cheese
Muesli Slice
Homemade scroggin - dried fruit, nuts, seeds
Creamed rice in small pottles (to avoid cans)
Sandwich pikelets (home made or bought) together with jam
Mini bagels split & sandwiched with chocolate hazelnut spread
Mix popcorn with dried fruit (variation to scroggin)
Small bag of nuts (check if allowed at school)
A bag of mini bagel bites (lots of flavours available)
Mini boxes of raisins or mixed fruit
Flavoured milk (freeze overnight)
Frozen yoghurt - portioned into a small container & frozen
Chunky cereal like fruity bix
Store bought Muesli Bar - check the sugar content.  Opt for options that have less than 600kJ, 5g or less of fat and less than 10g sugar per bar (Mother Earth fruit bar is a good option)

Homemade muesli bar

STEP 3: Make a plan for the week

Be organised...map out the weeks school lunches before you do the supermarket shopping.  Again place it on the fridge for easy referral.  It will make each day that much more stress free! 


As an example I have done a week's plan just for you:
To change just pick different items from the above lists that you have made.  Mix it up and try different things to see what you children like the most.  Variety is key.

Note:
  • This assumes that your kids will be coming home for afternoon tea.  If they go to care in the afternoon make sure you include something for afternoon tea.
  • It sometimes helps to pack the morning tea in a separate container to lunch.  That way your child will know what they are expected to eat.  It also looks less daunting!  Check our our Lunch boxes and Lunchskins which work well.
  • Alter the quantities depending on the age of your child i.e. 1 or 2 sandwiches
  • Keep the serving sizes small - cut up sandwiches into fingers, serve 2 mini bagels instead of 1...
Day of the week Morning Tea Lunch
MONDAY Mandarin

2 x Vita-Weet crackers sandwiched together with margarine & vegemite
Quiche or frittata baked in large muffin pans.
(See our recipe here)

Mini blueberry muffin taken out of the freezer the night before or first thing in the morning (see our recipe here)
TUESDAY Popcorn (pop it yourself) mixed with dried fruit. Pop it in a snap lock bag or better yet one of our Lunchskins.


 
Home made thick and chunky soup in a thermos (remember to include a spoon, use a good quality thermos for food safety reasons)

If the portion is small serve with a marmite roll up, great for dunking into the soup OR a cheese crispie.

Frozen yoghurt or dairy food (pop the pottle into the freezer over night or spoon some into a container and freeze).
WEDNESDAY Creamed rice - spoon out into a small container the night before (avoids the danger of cans for young kids).

A serve of fruit (frozen berries that can be stirred into the creamed rice works nicely)
A savoury jaffle (ham, cheese, tomato)

A slice of date & walnut loaf with a thin spread of cream cheese.
THURSDAY Pottle of cut up bite sized fruit such as mandarin, frozen blueberries or grapes (the blueberries will thaw throughout the morning)

Mother Earth Fruit Bar
2 x mini bagels split & sandwiched with a thin layer of cottage cheese and ham.

Frozen small flavoured milk (such as Calci-Yum).
FRIDAY 1 x pottle of canned fruit (include spoon)

1 x cheese triangle
Mini pizza (see our recipe here) or left over pizza slice from dinner.

Homemade muesli bar (see recipe)

STEP 4: Feedback

It is good to include your children in the decision making of what goes into their school lunch box.  Children are more likely to eat what they have planned themselves, but most of them need some adult guidance to ensure lunch is not just treat foods.  If you have your list made of foods that you deem suitable and get them to choose from that you can be sure it will be nutritious and balanced.  If a food comes home uneaten - talk to your child about why that is.


Bottom Line

When it comes to school lunches, it pays to keep a calm head and remember, it's not the end of the world if it seems like not much is getting eaten at lunchtime.  You have the other meals and snacks to make sure you child is getting enough.  If some snacks are not eaten during the day (if it's safe) offer them again for afternoon tea!


See other Yum Yum Kids articles or shop here