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What should I put in my child’s lunchbox?

Do you ever wonder what other parents pack in their children’s lunchboxes? I would like to be a fly on the wall of little man’s canteen to see what other children are eating. According to him, everyone eats crisps, sandwiches and biscuits. Nothing else!

I was delighted a few years ago when the government decided to introduce free school meals for all children up to Year 2. Knowing that my little one would get a warm, balanced meal every day was reassuring. I have to admit that lunch lunches do not always live up to my expectations, but that is a discussion for another day.

What happens when parents start making their children packed lunches in Year 3? Do they let the children what goes in the packed lunch?

The University of Leeds recently conducted a survey (commissioned by Flora) looking at children’s lunchboxes.

I was shocked to read that out of five lunchboxes, only one (17%) contained any vegetables or salad. Even worse, only 1.6% of  children’s lunchboxes were meeting school food nutritional standards.

It is not all ‘doom and gloom’ in the study though, as most lunchboxes met standards for protein (93%) and vitamin (75%). However the majority are still filled with saturated fats, sugary drinks, salt and too few fruits and vegetables.

Are parents the only ones to blame there? No, no, 100 times no. When Crevette started taking a lunchbox to school, we were not given any information regarding the school’s expectations of what would be in the said lunchbox. It was all wishy washy.

We only found out chocolate was a ‘no, no’ because Crevette’s homemade brownies were confiscated. Erm, so he was not allowed relatively healthy, homemade brownies (dark chocolate and raw cacao, anyone?) but children can have sugar-laden cakes or any type of crisps they want.

What we need as busy parents is guidance and simple solutions to help us create quick and healthy lunchboxes for our children. What makes a lunchbox healthy, nutritionally sound and full of goodness?

As part of their campaign to boost healthy eating in schools, Flora created a healthy lunch planner. I have found it really useful and I thought I would share it here so I can come back to it when I am lacking inspiration.

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

Putting together a good, healthy lunchbox need not be a chore or require effort or fancy equipment. Here is what Crevette’s lunchbox looks like on a typical day. Half of the time, we pack lunchboxes together, but he prefers me packing him a surprise lunchbox. He finds it really exciting, bless him!

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

On that day, I had bought myself an egg sandwich for lunch straight after playgroup with my younger two. Crevette loves egg sandwiches, so whenever I get myself one, I always keep a half for him. The fridge was getting pretty bare, but I had a couple of carrots needing using and we always have cucumber at home (perfect lunchbox ‘green’). We still had a few raspberries in the garden (autumn variety!) and I stole a couple of mini cereal bars from Jumpy’s allergy-friendly stash and added a halved kiwi, houmous and a spoon. The beauty of these pound shop tubs (10 for £1) is they are small enough to compress (without squashing) all of the above tightly enough so it does not create a mushy mess. Oh, and you can wash them and reuse them again and again.

Tonight, I made carrot and parsnip soup and he expressly requested I keep some for his lunch tomorrow. I bought him a brilliant thermos food container for his birthday last year. When you warm the food up in the morning, it really keeps it warm until lunchtime. Best buy ever for varying lunchboxes and using leftovers.

What I have struggled with over the past year is my little man’s ‘bipolar’ tastebuds. Seriously. one minute he loves something, but the next, he will not touch the stuff. He is getting picky. Long gone are the days when he would try to about anything presented to him. Mussels, snails, liver, stinky cheese. You name it, he would eat it… Every week, I check what he fancies in his lunchbox and whether he has gone off something new. The latest ‘unworthy food’ being a specific brand of breadsticks. Really?

Sometimes (on a really good day!), I actually plan dinner thinking of the following lunchbox, so that he can take cold leftovers to school.

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

Here are a couple of recipes you might find useful.

Rainbow Kebabs – main course

3 peppers, cut into 3x3cm cubes

1 red onion, sliced

Button mushrooms, halved

Baby plum tomatoes

Halloumi, cut into cubes

2 chicken breasts, diced

Splash of oil

Salt & pepper

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

Start by putting the kebab sticks in a bottle of water for 5 min. It will prevent them from burning under the grill.

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

In the meantime, chop the vegetables, cheese and meat.

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

Retrieve the kebab sticks and get everyone to make their own kebabs.

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

Grill for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through, turning halfway.

Serve with warm wholemeal pitta bread, houmous, guacamole or coleslaw and dressed leaves.

 

Potato salad – side

750g baby new potatoes, boiled in salty water for 15-20 minutes (until the blade of a knife goes in and comes out easily).

1/2 red onion, chopped finely

6 spring onions, trimmed, outer layer removed, washed and sliced

5 tablespoons mayonnaise

Salt, pepper

Leave the cooked potatoes to cool to room temperature. Dice them and mix with all ingredients in a large serving bowl.

 

Rainbow fruit kebabs – dessert

Let everyone make their own kebab using fruit you have at home.

 

White chocolate and cranberry cereal bars – An extra cheeky treat

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

We used Flora instead of butter to make our favourite treat. They were more crumbly than usual, but they still tasted delicious.

No Bake Cranberry and White Chocolate Cereal Bars - Yummy

Crevette was really happy to put together his lunchbox on that day. He made his own savoury kebab, chose the fruit for the sweet one and buttered his pitta bread.

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

He was particularly excited because my friend Grace, who blogs at ‘Eats Amazing,’ had given me a few goodies from her shop (do not look – you will want to buy it all!) to jazz up his lunchboxes. Check out the cute little panda container we used for the houmous, and the dotty pot he put his salad in!

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

You can also find great ideas for gluten-free vegan lunchboxes here.

Disclosure: This post is an entry for the #FloraLunchbox Linky Challenge, sponsored by Flora. Check out their lunch planner and recipe ideas here. I included a link to Amazon. As an affiliate, if you click and buy the Thermos flask, I might get a few pennies.

 

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Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

 

Packing a lunchbox doesn’t need to be a chore! Check those simple steps to put together a healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchbox for your child that is full of flavours, wholesome ingredients, fruit and vegetables so they are focused, bursting with energy and full. Don’t forget to pack water, too!

49 Comments

  1. i knew i was hexed? (@ikiwn)
    14/10/2016 / 5:01 pm

    There are some great and diverse options here, I used to get a sandwich and packet of crisps every day and at the time I was happy with it but looking at this I can’t help but wish I’d found some of these in my lunchbox when I was a kid! X

    • Mel
      Author
      14/10/2016 / 11:23 pm

      Growing up in France, I didn’t have a lunchbox, so until I had to start packing little man’s lunches, I had no idea what I was supposed to pack for him.

  2. Rosie Corriette
    15/10/2016 / 11:04 am

    Those lunch boxes look amazing! Boo has school dinners as they’re really good and cooked on sight.

    • Mel
      Author
      17/10/2016 / 11:25 am

      Lucky her! My niece also has lovely lunches cooked on site, but we’re not that lucky here… Not great, and really expensive if I’m honest.

  3. anthea
    15/10/2016 / 9:26 pm

    I’m liking your lunchbox style. Mine take a lot of cold pasta and rice dishes to school for packed lunch as I didn’t want them having sandwiches every day. So I try and mix it up a little and that flora inforgraphic is great for some ideas.

    • Mel
      Author
      18/10/2016 / 10:30 pm

      Same here, I always aim for variety, although houmous and cucumber feature in his lunchbox most days, he he!

  4. thingssarahloves
    16/10/2016 / 10:25 pm

    I remember when I was at school, my mum always put surprises in my lunchbox and kept it exciting. I loved carrot sticks with different dips or fruit salads.

    • Mel
      Author
      17/10/2016 / 11:23 am

      I love carrot sticks too!

  5. Vicki Montague
    17/10/2016 / 11:20 am

    Wow! Your lunch boxes look fabulous! That little infographic from Flora is pretty helpful although I wouldn’t agree with putting a sweet treat in there. There is no need for a child to have a sugary treat at lunchtime in my opinion…all it serves to do is set them up with the expectation that they get something sweet after every meal and increases their desire for sweet foods. Fruit is sweet enough (not dried because that often contains more sugar than a sugary snack and gets stuck in their teeth causing decay)… Yup, you can tell I am no fun to live with but I know that my kids won’t have an increased chance of getting type 2 diabetes. Even savoury things have sugar in these days so it is very easy for kids to eat way too much sugar without you even giving them sugary things!

    • Mel
      Author
      18/10/2016 / 10:20 pm

      I agree with you re. overdoing sweet treats my lovely. Fruit is what Crevette normally gets as his sweet treat, as well as a cereal bar or some Greek yoghurt and jam. xx

  6. Daniella Keating
    17/10/2016 / 3:35 pm

    This gives me inspo for my own packed lunch for work, thanks!

    • Mel
      Author
      18/10/2016 / 10:18 pm

      I’m glad you found it useful Daniella!

  7. 20/10/2016 / 12:05 am

    Love the lunchbox builder – what a useful tool to help get ideas about what to put in the lunchbox. Crevette’s lunchboxes look very yummy. I have to admit I’m quite relieved that Jessica has free school meals at the moment as it means I don’t have to come up with ideas for lunchtime! I like the sound of the rainbow kebabs and the cereal bars though 🙂

    • Mel
      Author
      20/10/2016 / 9:20 pm

      Thanks sweetie. His lunchboxes are not always that pretty, but as he’s getting a tad fussy, I make sure he has things he really likes for lunch. x

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