It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut when making packed lunches for children to take to school. Many mums go into auto-pilot and the poor kids get stuck with the same selection of cheese sandwiches, yoghurt, a packet of crisps and an apple every day of the week. Food should be a pleasure rather than something you throw down as quickly as possible, so break out of the routine with something a bit different in your child’s packed lunch.
Carbs and Sandwiches
Sandwiches are a great way of getting some carbohydrates into your child at lunchtime; bread will fill them up and give them an energy boost to get through the afternoon. There’s nothing wrong with plain white or brown bread, but make things a bit more interesting for your child by giving them wraps, pitta bread or oatcakes instead. Kids love making their own sandwiches and instead of buying those packs of cheese, ham and crackers which are loaded with salt and additives, give them some oatcakes, crackers, sliced cucumber, peppers, ham or whatever else they like to have for lunch.
Schools are having a big push on healthy eating and fruit is often widely available free of charge in schools. If your child has access to free apples or oranges in school, send them with plums, bananas or something different. Encourage them to have one piece of fruit at break and another at lunch, and you can boost their fruit intake even further by giving them fresh fruit or a smoothie to drink too.
Kids need to snack and a certain amount of sugar and fat in their diet is essential. However filling their packed lunches with bags of cookies or chocolate bars will give them a short burst of energy only. Try to include savory snacks as well as sweet ones, items like salami sticks and biltong are popular with children and are becoming more widely available as biltong distributor companies try to meet UK demand. If there is no biltong distributor selling their products in your area, look for salami, chorizo or similar cured meats in the supermarket. Not all children like this sort of meat, so you could also include olives, sun dried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, nuts or dried fruit such as apricots or prunes.
Most schools do not keep packed lunches in a cold room, so the chances are that your child’s packed lunch will be sitting in a hot classroom all morning. If you are sending your child to school with meat products or other high-risk items for food poisoning, invest in a small insulated bag instead of a normal lunch bag, or use ice blocks from camping stores to keep food chilled. Items like chorizo or meat from a biltong distributor which have been cured are lower risk than yesterday’s leftover chicken drumsticks or some prawns, which are best avoided in packed lunches. One good tip is to keep yoghurt sticks or pouches in the freezer. Put them straight into the packed lunch in the morning from the freezer and by lunch time they will have melted.
Hot or Cold?
Some schools have banned children from taking in hot food in a thermos flask as they are concerned about burns and spills. If your child’s school still allows hot food, you can send in pasta, soups, beans and a huge variety of other meals too. If not, you can still send in more substantial meals which can be eaten cold like pasta salad, couscous with vegetables or a Greek salad made with feta and olives. Don’t forget to send a fork in the lunchbox though!