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.
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!
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.
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
Start by putting the kebab sticks in a bottle of water for 5 min. It will prevent them from burning under the grill.
In the meantime, chop the vegetables, cheese and meat.
Retrieve the kebab sticks and get everyone to make their own kebabs.
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
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
We used Flora instead of butter to make our favourite treat. They were more crumbly than usual, but they still tasted delicious.
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.
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!
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. I included a link to Amazon. As an affiliate, if you click and buy the Thermos flask, I might get a few pennies.
Save me for later!