I think most parents dread making lunchboxes. Just another chore to add to an already hectic morning. And then there’s the dreaded “will they even eat it?”
I know many of us resort to throwing in packets, because it’s easier and generally kiddies will eat highly palatable foods in packets. But those packaged foods aren’t great nutritionally and can be super expensive.
My argument is that making “real food” lunches doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. You CAN put a healthy whole food based lunchbox that your kiddy WILL eat in under 5 minutes.
Here’s a few tips on HOW to do just that!
1. Make it Colourful!
Kiddys LOVE bright colours and its easy to do with fruit and vegetables, because they come in an array of bright, oranges, greens, purples, reds and yellows. try and choose 3 different colours to make your kiddys lunchbox a rainbow.
Here we have: left over roast potato “hotdogs” filled with tomato and sausage (protein and starchy carbs!), 2 plums, purple cauli, broccoli (blanched from last nights dinner) and 3 plums, a handful of muesli and 2 blackbean brownie bliss balls from the freezer.
Lunchbox assembly time: 5 minutes
2. Egg Crepes are a staple item in our lunchboxes, they are easy to eat, loaded with essential fats and protein, quick to make and the kiddy’s eagerly gobble them up.
These crepes have bacon in the middle, for extra flavour.
whisk 3 eggs with 1 tbsp of water.
Pour half the mix in a hot, dry fry pan. When it bubbles, add the precooked bacon (or grated cheese, spinach, onion, mushroom or keep it plain). Use the spatula to roll it up. keep in the pan until the egg is cooked.
Makes 2 egg crepes
Time in the kitchen: under 5 minutes.
Miss 10 made this lunchbox. bacon and egg crepe, handful (or 3?!) of walnuts, pickled cucumber and sliced apple and orange.
You can squeeze lemon or orange juice over apple slices to stop them browning
3. Stuffed potatoes and kumara can be made in so many different ways to suit different tastes and match whatever’s on hand in the fridge or pantry. They can be made ahead of time, or assembled in the morning with minimum effort
These are 3 different stuffed potatoes with variations or cheese, spinach, sausage, tomato paste, herbs and onions. A staple in our house is tinned fish and aioli mixed with the potato and stuffed into the skin (no reheating required!). But basically, anything goes.
Get your kiddy’s experimenting in the kitchen with different combos, they are very easy for kids to make by themselves. And are great for lunchboxes because they keep well and are easy for kids to pick up and eat.
4. Avocados are a fabulous summer fruit, high in good fats and energy they are an excellent addition to the lunchbox.
They can be eaten with a spoon, or the kiddy’s can use crackers to dip and scoop the avo.
We have avo in a zillion different ways over the summer.
Here we have a boiled egg in th epip hole, with poppy seeds to cover it and stop it browning. with fruit, cucumber, blackbean brownie and coloured coconut.
5. Make it easy to eat!
Kiddies love food they can pick up with their hands and eat easily.
Pictured (right) is egg crepe – recipe above- rolled with asparagus and wrapped in nori), and (left) lunchbox with tuna and avocado sushi, fruit, bliss balls, brazil nuts and roast potato.
I find rolls of egg crepe spring rolls and sushi are fab for kiddys lunchboxes. Easy to pick up and eat and shove in their gobs so they can get on with more important things, like playing with their friends.
Stuffed capsicum with left over rice, coconut cream and curry
6. Use the left overs. This tip is KEY to making lunches easy. Cook once eat twice!!
Below we have, leftover homemade baked beans, which can be kept in the freezer for an instant lunchbox (or breakfast) feast, popcorn, scroggin, cucumber slices, leftover meatballs and an apple
7. Fruit and veggies don’t need any (or hardly any) prep.
They also don’t need any extra packaging, so they are a minimal effort addition to the lunchbox! Throw in your kiddy’s favourite ones and leave the challenging ones for home. Aim for around 1/3 of the lunchbox to be fruit and vegetables.
8. The traditional sandwich – use it as a vehicle to get veggies and protein (chicken, ham, egg, meat, fish, beans) into your kiddies for sustained energy.
We don’t have sandwiches in our lunchboxes very often. Mainly because my kiddy’s don’t eat them, but also because many breads (especially highly refined gluten free bread) is not that healthy. If your kiddy’s love bread, pitas, wraps use them as a vehicle to get in extra protein, veggies (think salad, grated carrot, lettuce, tomato, cucumber) and healthy fats (think aioli, avocado, nut butters). This will help keep their energy levels sustained. And of course, protein is important for growing kiddy’s and healthy fats for their concentration in school and slow release energy, that will hopefully last them the afternoon.
Here we have a sourdough toastie, with cheese, spinach, fresh herbs and ham, half an avo with sauerkraut in the middle and quinoa on the top, apple, strawberries, cucumber a biscuit and almonds.
9. Put meat on a stick! Kids love food on a stick and meat is no exception. Wee bite sized pieces of chicken or meatballs or egg, cheese ,you can also make fruit and vege skewers.
Pictured below is (left) meatballs put on an iceblock stick and baked in the oven and (right) homemade chicken nuggets.
10. Keep it simple!
Kids don’t need fancy food, star shaped sandwiches, fancy cut fruit or matcha powder smoothies. If you’re stuck for time (and money!) take your menu right back to basics. Good food can be simple food!
Pictured below is cheese cubes, sausage pieces, strawberries, orange, 1/2 banana, popcorn muesli bar and peanut butter sandwich (sourdough).
11. Have food on hand for those days when everything turns to s**t
Hard boiled eggs last 5 days in the fridge, if kept in their shells, bliss balls and muesli bars keep forever in the freezer, tins of tuna in the pantry, hummus and bread in the freezer, yoghurt and frozen fruit can be stored and used when nothing else is planned or organised or for when you’ve run out of food and need to go shopping. Desperate dinners (leftover dinner put in the freezer) in individual portion sizes, can be kept in the freezer and placed in the lunchbox. Have a few food items kept aside for those messy mornings, so lunchboxes aren’t a hassle on an already crazy school run.
Pictured below: a purple egg (hard boiled egg, soaked in ruby sauerkraut juice. These keep in the fridge for about 5 days, perfect to have on hand when there’s nothing else!)