Words by Marzia Bell – Dietitian to be and Mum to 2
Schools are back…”Phew!” I hear you say… Kids are kept busy for the term and parents can find their sanity again.
With back to school also comes the challenge of school lunches. They can be fun for the first week or two and then boredom sets in for both parents and kids alike. Here are a few tips on packing school lunches to make your life easy and fun.
1. Have your tools ready
Containers of different shapes and sizes make packing lunch easy and allow you to separate foods so juices from one don’t run into the other. Have an insulated bag to put all your containers into to keep lunches fresh in this hot weather.
2. Cold packs:
Food safety is important; especially with the summer heat, cold packs are a must to keep your kids food cold until lunchtime.
3. Stick with a basic structure
(it is much easier to slot things in if you have a basic plan):
- Brain snack: small apples, pears, carrot or cucumber sticks, strawberries or snacking tomatoes are perfect for this quick snack. (not all schools do this)
- First break: aim for a fruit or veggie serve plus yoghurt or a healthy home-baked goodie
- Second break: a protein and salad sandwich or wrap, leftovers, snacking lunch (e.g. cut up cheese, tinned tuna/salmon, boiled eggs, veggie sticks, almonds)
4. Save time, bake ahead:
Make homemade quiches, muffins, banana bread, muesli bars etc. ahead of time and freeze them in individual portions. The night before or the morning of, take them out of the freezer and they will defrost in time for the first break. They can also help keep lunch boxes cold.
is a great mid-morning snack. The protein in yoghurt will keep little people full and energised until lunchtime. There are great little yoghurt containers with an outer shell that can be frozen, helping to keep it cold all morning. Choose plain Greek yoghurt and add some fresh or frozen fruit for flavour. Don’t forget to pack a spoon!
6. Make school nights easy. Prep ahead of time – utilise your weekends.
Try washing and cutting salad items up into containers in the fridge for lunches, so all you need to do is take your bread or wrap, add protein quickly (ham, cheese, egg, tuna, beans, chicken) and you’re set! Try different combinations to keep things interesting e.g. egg & lettuce, ham, spinach & tomato, grated carrot, lettuce and beetroot.
Have your veggie sticks and fresh fruit cut and prepped in a large container of time (perhaps twice a week for optimal freshness). It’s then easy to putting individual serves in a container, add a little hummus, salsa, guacamole or tzatziki for dipping. Little salad dressing containers are perfect for this (find in your local supermarket in the containers aisle).
7. Leftovers are the best!
Full of nutrients and ready to use, these can really help save you time. Get yourself a hot food container (Thermos make some fancy ones, but you can also buy cheaper alternatives at Kmart for under $10). In the morning fill it with boiling water, leave it for 5 minutes, meanwhile heat up the leftovers in a container. When the 5 minutes are up just empty the water and put the food in, easy! You can also use it for warm baked beans with a slice of wholemeal bread. Don’t forget to pack a fork or spoon!
Make sure the lunch box is full of nutrient-rich foods; Kids brains and bodies need them to stay focused all day. Pre-packaged snacks are easy and tempting but are often nutrient poor and will slow them down.
Have fun, experiment and find some new family favourites!