Pack it in

Shiny shoes at the door and bright white shirts can only mean one thing – back to school time! Hope you’re used to the routine now, back into the swing of things? My daughter started school this year which made me very excited and gutted at the same time. I loved our time together and it’s been great fun and hard work. A new job that I now have to practice and get into is packed lunches – but what can I put in there?
Packed lunches are however a time to experiment and broaden children’s food likes as often they are so hungry at school they devour the whole contents without moaning. Equally, I realise there are also many parents left at the end of the day removing squished fruit and half eaten slimy sandwiches from their child’s lunch box.
So, how can we provide a lunch box to support learning and play that will be enjoyed by our children and not the bin? Here are some ideas I’ve gained and kept from talking to mums that already have children going to school. After all, all tips help!
Include a high fibre starchy carbohydrate to fuel brain power, pay time and avoid the ‘I’m starving’ at home time. Examples include wholemeal bread, wholegrain pasta and oat cakes. A dry wholegrain cereal with raisins can be included as healthy, high fibre snack.
If sandwiches are met with turned up noses try jazzing up the filling switch grated cheese, apple and mayonnaises, smoked mackerel mixed with cream cheese even, chorizo an dried pepper simply hummus an cumber. Bored with bread? Then try oatcakes, wraps, breadsticks, pasta, quiche or pizza for variety.
Involve your child in decision making and preparation too.
Simply asking what your child wants can go a long way to minimising food refusal, waste and most importantly the moaning.
Keep it simple and offer two choices like bread or roll, apple or satsuma or which pots they want to sue. Make food fun and appetising.
Cut sandwiches into shapes, offer food skewers like fruit kebabs or simply add colour with fruit and vegetables. A bento style box can look appealing and means your child can just get on with eating, not spending time opening wrappers.
Aim to provide at least two portions of fruit and vegetables a day like chopped vegetables such as sliced carrot, pepper, cucumber or cherry tomatoes with sandwiched and little pots of mixed fresh and dried fruit. – melon and dried mango. Aim for the rainbow, to provide colour and a variety of nutrients.
Protein is the building block of bone and muscle so needs to be offered and muscle at every meal. Ideas include chicken satay sticks, tinned tuna, boiled egg, salmon skewers or beans and tofu for a vegetarian alternative.
To support strong and healthy bones and teeth and to include a calcium source such as yoghurt. Lots of rice pudding or custard. Cubed or string cheese. Dairy free alternatives include soya, dried apricots and white bread.
With drinks – keep it simple with water. Add a little something nice -Flapjacks , scone, tea cake or fruity pancakes. Pretzels even are tasty rather than crisps. Popcorn as well. Enjoy making them their pack lunch and they’ll enjoy eating it!

Sayeh Woodman
sayehwoodman@outlook.com