It’s that time of year again. The kids have headed back to school and what can feel like a crazy rush each morning begins once more.
In our house, there can be five of us in or around our kitchen bench at once in the mornings and it’s a busy time. Mostly, two meals (as in our breakfasts and packed lunches) are being prepared in a very short space of time. I am sure your home may is similar. I am sure you sometimes feel a little overwhelmed and stressed in the rush of it all also.
What makes things far more manageable for us is to plan ahead a little. We have a couple of dedicated Tupperware storage containers that sit in our fridge, and they store healthy food items ideal for lunch box building and also healthy snacks at home. These containers are labelled
’lunchbox inspiration’ and I tell you, when we added these to our fridge and routine a couple of years ago, it was a game changer.
I spend just a little bit of time on the weekend or of an evening preparing the ‘inspiration’, and it is no more than 15-20 minutes. Our containers are filled with things like semi-hard boiled eggs, sliced carrots, sliced capsicums, mushrooms, seasonal fruits as well as homemade hummus (mainly for my addiction issues to it but also an excellent lunch box addition). Placed right next to this container will vary from week to week & season to season and includes other great things for lunch box building like leftovers, soups, grain salads, vegetarian tarts, pasta, ham and egg tarts, poached chicken and tinned tuna.
When you think about it, children consume around 30% of their daily food intake at school. What they eat during their day at school plays a crucial role in their learning and development.
Our inspiration tubs are generally stocked with healthy lunch box foods that balance across the core food groups.
A healthy lunch box contains:
1) Grain foods – wraps, pitta, pasta, noodles, rice, quinoa, couscous, corn cakes, rice cakes. Wholegrain crackers, bagels. Wholemeal, multigrain and high fibre rolls or bread.
2) Dairy – yoghurt, cheese, milk (including soy, almond or other plant-based kinds of milk).
3) Vegetables & healthy salads – carrots, cherry tomatoes, capsicum, celery, corn, beans, cucumber, mushrooms, snap peas, mixed lettuce/salad leaves, raw or cooked vegetables (leftovers are great for this), lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, freekah. Vegetable soups (such as pumpkin, chicken and vegetable, sweet potato, potato and leek).
4) Fruit – fresh fruit, frozen fruits, fruit salads. I tend not to add dried fruit, but that is personal preference. Nuts and seeds, popcorn.
5) Protein – poached chicken, turkey, eggs (hard boiled or egg tarts, etc.), ham and egg tarts, falafel, hummus, baked beans, lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, freekah, kidney beans, falafels, tofu cubes, tinned tuna and tinned salmon, nuts and seeds.
Where’s the bread? It’s true that bread contains vital nutrients such as fibre, B-group vitamins, folate, thiamine, zinc, vitamin E and antioxidants. It’s an excellent vehicle for filling with many of the core food groups above. Kids are busy and often ‘on the go’ at lunchtime so a healthy sandwich, wrap or roll is a fantastic portable lunch.
Yes, there is no sandwich, wrap or roll in our daughters’ lunches pictured here. They certainly do have them but maybe a few times a week rather than every day. To be honest, they can get bored with them every day (heavens knows I would too) so mixing it up on the other days with things like you can see instead (ham & egg tarts, grain salad, etc.)
There is also no dairy in their lunch boxes in this pic. There is on other days and usually in the form of a nice cheese to go with crackers or in their wraps. Our daughter age group (between 12-18) needs 3.5 servings of dairy a day. They all had a large smoothie that morning which contained both milk and yoghurt as well fresh fruit. There would always be more dairy when they get home from school so it’s about common sense. Want to learn more about the daily recommended nutritional serves for the five food groups for children and teens? Eat for health website has more information for you here.
Here is some recipe links also they are hopefully helpful and inspiring for you.