To mark the launch of their Little Bottles of Apple and Orange juice, the lovely people at Tropicana have asked me to share creative lunchbox ideas to increase fruit and veg intake. According to consumer research conducted by Tropicana, “72% of Brits think it’s harder to be healthy when having lunch on the go” and “For more than one in four (27%), lunch is the least likely meal to include any of our five-a-day.”
My children are little fruit bats and if I leave a basket of fruit on the dining room table, they will keep grazing on fruit. Look at Jumpy devouring a peach!
Wriggly, what can I say about Wriggly? My little monkey eats 3 or 4 bananas every day…
Around here, January has been all about varied, wholesome lunches for my little ones. They love their packed lunches so much they have been asking for indoor picnics at the weekend! I honestly did not change much apart from planning the lunchboxes the way I would plan meals for the week, and it has made a huge difference to what goes in the lunchboxes (for starters, I don’t run out of ‘lunchbox food’ on Wednesday mornings!). Here come lunchbox ideas and tips to get some of those 5-a-day into your lunchboxes!
Before I go into the nitty gritty of packing those fun and healthy lunchboxes, let’s go back to basics and focus a bit on what counts as your 5-a-day.
Why do I need to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day?
Fruit and vegetables are a source of vitamins and minerals. They also contain fibre, which contributes to maintaining a healthy gut and prevent digestion issues. The 5-a-day campaign stem from the World Health Organisation’s advice to eat at least 400g of fruit and veg per day as part of a balanced diet to minimise risks of health problems such as stoke, some cancers and heart disease.
Can I just eat 400g of strawberries to tick the 5-a-day off my list for the day?
You need five portions of a range of fruit of vegetables, not five portions of the same fruit or vegetable.
Do chips count as one of my 5-a-day?
No. Most root vegetables like parsnips, sweet potatoes or swede count as part of your 5-a-day but potatoes count as a starchy food (like bread, rice or pasta) so you cannot add them as one of your 5-a-day when you eat chips, mashed potatoes, a jacket potato or a potato salad. Plantain, cassava and yams are in the same category.
What counts then?
- Fresh fruit & vegetables
- Frozen and tinned fruit and veg
- Dried fruit (a heaped tablespoon – 30g), eaten at mealtimes
- Fruit and vegetables in ready-made food
- Fruit and vegetables in cooked form (in pasta, a stew or soup)
- One of your portions of fruit and veg can also be unsweetened 100% fruit juice or smoothie (150ml)
How do I know what a portion of fruit is?
For adults, a portion of fruit or veg is 80 grams, a small glass of juice or smoothie (150ml) or 30g dried fruit (a heaped tablespoon).
I did some weighing at home, and a portion was:
- 1 medium apple
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1 small avocado
- 9 small cherry tomatoes on the vine
- a couple of broccoli spears
- 1/2 a pepper
- a 5cm piece of cucumber
- 1/2 cup defrosted peas
- 1/2 cup tined sweetcorn
What do 5 portions of fruit and veg look like?
I am a visual person so I took photos of 5 adult portions of fruit and veg to show you exactly what to aim for.
– 1/2 cup (80g) sweetcorn
– 1/2 cup (80g) peas
– 9 small baby tomatoes on the vine
– a small peach
– a small avocado
– a bowl of salad (big handful)
– 1/2 cup (80g) blueberries
– 2 small carrots (80g), peeled
– 1/2 corn on the cob
– a small apple
– a small banana
– 5cm piece of cucumber
– a heaped tablespoon dried cranberries
– 150ml 100% juice
– 1/2 a pepper
How about children?
It really depends how old they are, but here is a rough guide: a portion is what they can fit into the palm of their hand.
For Jumpy (4 years old), a portion of cucumber would be three slices, and a portion of peppers would be 3 strips.
For Beanie (6 years old), a dozen blueberries and 1/2 a kiwi each count as a portion of fruit.
Children can also have one small glass of juice or smoothie as one of their 5-a-day.
My children normally have their small glass of juice in the morning with their porridge, but since we have been using Tropicana Little Bottles, they have had their juice for lunch at times.
I never really know how much Crevette (8 years old) drinks at school as his water bottle is always almost full when he comes home so at least I know he has some fluid intake now he has juice for lunch. I also pay for him to have a cartoon of milk at playtime so I am reassured he keeps hydrated and I will definitely keep giving him his juice for lunch (he prefers milk in the morning anyway). Sorry, I am waffling!
Here are 10 lunchbox ideas to help you eat more fruit & veg when on the go
1- Plan lunchboxes together
Being part of the decision-making and having a choice will encourage your children to eat more fruit and vegetables.
2- Prepare fruit & veg together
From a young age, children can help peel, chop, grate vegetables under supervision, make fruit and veg kebabs or put together a fruit salad.
3- Lead by example
Snack on fruit and veg, show younger members of your family you do enjoy fruit and veg.
4- Have a family challenge
Print a chart for each member of the family and at the end of each day, tick how many portions you have all had. At the end of the week, whoever has eaten the most fruit and veg gets a prize, e.g. mum can have an hour in the bathroom to herself and have a bath, go to the winner’s favourite park, play a board game, go for a bike ride as a family etc.
5- Funny Fruit
Draw faces with a Sharpie pen on bananas or satsumas. Turn fruit and veg into rainbow skewers.
6- Themed lunchboxes
Can you create a rainbow lunchbox? A vegan one? A green and orange one?
7- Homemade jelly
Make your own jelly using 100% fruit juice and gelatine or agar agar for a yummy treat.
Use leftover plain pasta or boiled potatoes to quickly put together a salad by simply throwing in some peas, cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn or anything that takes your fancy.
Soup is also a lovely lunch option. Simply reheat it in the morning and place it in a Thermos container.
9- Yoghurt and Fruit
Sprinkle fresh fruit on natural greek yoghurt and a few pieces of dried fruit for a moreish dessert.
10- Little Bottles
The compact 150ml Tropicana Little Bottles make a perfect addition to any lunchbox, and they are a great way to get one of your 5-a-day.
Have you got any other lunchbox ideas to increase fruit and veg intake?
For more information about the 5-a-day campaign, head over to the Live Well part of the NHS website.
Disclosure: This blog post is sponsored by Tropicana.