School holidays are nearly over … not sure if I feel relief or dread 😂 and with the return of school comes the return of the lunchbox.
Many parents dread making lunchboxes. All that effort, but will they bloody eat it?! Making lunchboxes every day, doesn’t have to be hard. Kids don’t need fancy food, star shaped sandwiches with faces or mini homemade crackers in the shape of hearts. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with making arty lunchboxes, if you enjoy doing it then go for it! But kids don’t need it. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time , patience or energy to go to that much effort!
To make lunchboxes in under 5 minutes, you need to strip them back to basics.
Kids need 4 things in their lunches:
1. Carbohydrates for energy
2. Fruit and Veggies for fibre, increased fullness and to help get that 10+ a day!
3. Protein for muscle growth and increased fullness
4. Healthy fats for long lasting energy and improved brain function
I’ll go into these in more detail, in the following section. But it’s important to note, that this is simply a guide, to help parents (and kiddies!) prepare quick, healthy lunchboxes. There is no right or wrong, when it comes to food, so choose foods that fit your tastes, food values and budget.
1. Carbohydrates for energy.
Carbohydrates have had a bad rap lately, mostly because they get broken down into sugar in our bodies and we know that eating lots of added sugars is not great for our health. But not all carbs are created equal, choosing wholefood carbohydrates from fruit, vegetables, starchy carbohydrates such as: kumara, potato, corn, oats and rice are all excellent carbohydrate sources. Cold rice and potato, are high in resistant starch, which feeds our good gut bacteria, promoting gut health and doesn’t have the same effects on our sugar levels as table sugar does from, say, fizzy drink or lollies.
You can read more about carbohydrates here: http://fastfeasts.wixsite.com/fastfeasts/single-post/2017/10/02/Carbohydrates—whats-the-deal
Aim for 1 to 2 serves of carbohydrates depending on your kiddies energy needs and activity level.
We don’t often have bread in our lunchboxes, mainly because the kids won’t eat sandwiches. Most bread is very processed, uses refined flours and is not fermented naturally. The refined flours are broken down very easily in the gut and does not give kiddies sustained energy over the day. Also they can be low in nutrients and fibre and the gluten free versions are nutritionally worse, with the added sting of a hideously high price tag!
If your kiddies love breads, wraps, pita breads etc, use them as a vehicle to get some protein and extra veges in.
For example: egg and salad wrap, bean and cheese stuffed pita bread, tuna and salad sandwich, mince and cheese pie with bread as the pastry.
This will help keep kiddies fuller for longer with extra fibre and protein.
Carbohydrate Food Ideas:
Stuffed potatoes, kumara hot dogs, popcorn, purple kumara, roasted potatoes, sushi, spring rolls, hummus (also a protein source), rice or potato salad, mashed potato bites, corn on the cob, yams, roasted parsnip, pumpkin, polenta
2. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. It also helps slow digestion and keeps kiddies fuller for longer, helping them to learn and concentrate in school.
Aim for 1 good protein source in each lunchbox
Egg: crepes, hard boiled, purple, omelette, scrambled in sandwiches or wraps.
Fish: Tinned salmon or tuna in potato, avocado or sandwiches. Fillets (leftovers) or smoked salmon on cucumber or in wraps or inside an egg crepe.
Beans: pottles of homemade baked beans, dhal to eat with a spoon. Crunchy roasted chickpeas or refried beans in a stuffed potato or served with rice.
Meat: leftover roast meat, chicken drumsticks, sausages on their own or as a hot dog, chicken pieces, pork and crackle, chicken nuggets, mini meatballs, lamb kofta on a stick, bacon and cheese grilled in a potato.
3. Fruit and vegetables have loads of vitamins, minerals and fibre. More importantly, they don’t need any preparation, so can be easily thrown into a lunchbox.
Aim for 1/3 of every lunchbox to be filled with fruit and vegetables. Choose ones they like, don’t bother with fruits or veggies they find challenging!
Seasonal fruit and vegetables you could have (you can see this list is nearly endless!)…
Sugar Snap Peas
Corn on the cob
I’m a big fan of adding veges to lunchboxes. Stick to their favourites and keep the new or challenging ones for dinner.
Vegetable sticks and dips like hummus, salsa, cream cheese or yoghurt based dip or pesto.
Putting spreads like nut butters or cream or cottage cheese on veges like celery or cucumber.
Add salad to sandwiches and wraps
Add spring rolls filled with cabbage and chicken or sushi with capsicum and cucumber to lunchboxes.
Stuff avocado or kumara with anything you fancy.
Make meatballs with mince and grated vegetables
Make vege patty’s or corn fritters
4. Healthy fats
Fats are essential for brain development, concentration and sustained energy.
Aim for 1 to 2 serves of healthy fats
Try: nuts, seeds, bliss balls, avocado, aioli made with olive oil, eggs, fish such as tinned tuna, salmon, sardines or smoked fish (in a stuffed potato or in sushi!), olives, cheese, plain yoghurt