Both my children kicked off the new year with packed lunches so this post by Honest Mum regular, registered dietitian and writer Laura Clark, has come at the right time.
Lunchboxes need not be boring!
Over to Laura…
It’s great to snuggle down on the HonestMum blog again this year. As I did my first weekly shop of the year, I felt like I was floating on air. The carnage of Christmas shopping was but a distant memory as I whizzed blissfully round the aisles with no children in tow. The shopping list looked a bit different though, as back to school has also meant back to constant demands for snacks and lunch boxes.
According to research presented at last year’s Food Matters Live Conference, 64% of food shopping in the UK is done by females and with lots of demands on our time, it’s not surprising we lack a little inspiration sometimes.
Whilst lunch boxes might be the source of frustration sometimes between parents and their children, let’s remind ourselves of the bigger picture. Ideally, we should talk to our kids about food and why it’s good for us to eat healthily, to not demonise foods or to use it in any other way other than to nourish. Food should never be withdrawn or given as a form of punishment or reward (no matter how hard this is, to actually do!) and we do not need to achieve nutritional perfection every single day.
As far as lunch boxes go, balance is key. The mushed up remains that come back might suggest a balance hasn’t actually been eaten and whilst that’s annoying and we may need to get a little inventive to please the little darlings, remember that it’s the continual bench-marking of what constitutes a healthy balance, is what’s important. It’s going into their subconscious, and will pay off eventually, honest!
So, lets break down what a healthy lunchbox should contain.
Some that seem to be better accepted than others include:
Folded flat breads, wholemeal pittas – cut into strips for dipping or as a traditional sandwich
Leftover pasta salad
Crackers (not the ones you can see through!) choose something with a bit of substance and ideally a bit of fibre!
Oatcakes/ corn thins
Wholewheat bread sticks
Source of protein are important for growth and filling them up but they don’t need massive portions as it’s relative to body weight. You could try:
Slices of roast left overs
Hard boiled eggs sliced
Rolls of turkey or ham (limit ham if you can, as it’s high in salt – if someone could tell my son, Sam this, that that would be great, cheers).
Tuna or salmon pasta salad with sweetcorn
Cheese cubes – could vary the types of cheese or choose dairy free alternatives.
Grated cheese mixed with grated veg e.g. carrot or beetroot also works really well.
Edamame beans, kidney beans, baked beans or chickpeas –latter could be roasted first with some spices for flavour.
Hummus will provide a little protein (as well as fat).
Veggie sticks with a dip such as cream cheese or hummus.
Corn on the cob
Left over roasted veg
Veg incorporated into the sandwich e.g. avocado, spinach. A little lime juice squeezed onto avocado will stop it browning and make it a nice vitamin C boosting, zesty addition to a pasta salad too!
Savoury muffins – cheese and spinach are a fave in our house.
Frittata – made with egg and whatever veg you have in the fridge – slices up really well when cold. Could also incorporate left over roast meat, sausages or meat alternatives.
Ideally a yogurt if they haven’t had cheese in there. I aim for less than 10g ‘of which sugars’ per 100g if poss. Much of the sugar in yoghurt will be naturally occurring as lactose which doesn’t count towards free sugar intake. I also quite like brands that provide some live cultures to keep their guts nice and healthy. A little sweetness for the trade- off of calcium and vitamin D is worth it in my book. Dairy or suitable non-dairy unsweetened plant– based alternatives fortified with calcium are really important for children as their peak bone mass is still forming. It’s also worth noting soya or oat milks generally have more protein in them then nut milks.
Serving of fruit could be fresh or tinned. Remember to cut fruit lengthways if your children are younger e.g. grapes, strawberries.
Banana and oat flapjack or muffins using naturally occurring fruit sugar for the sweetness.
Dried fruit is also fine providing they wash it down with plenty of water so it doesn’t stick to their teeth. My daughter eats hers as a snack before a cheese portion and some cherry tomatoes.
So, there we have it – hope that helps. Just to say, some of the inspiration on Pinterest makes me feel like a really inadequate parent. I confess I am not cutting sandwiches into the shape of trains or making a hedgehog out of a pineapple, so please forgive me.
If you want to see Laura or any other registered dietitian for advice, check out www.freelancedietitians.org.
You can also read more of Laura’s posts here: How to Lose Weight as a Busy Mama, Food Assumptions and How They Affect Their Children, and Confessions of a Dietitian Mum: What I Actually Feed My Children.