With the new term finally arriving after a long and difficult five months, the humble packed lunch is back on our family food radar. We’ve teamed up with Registered Nutritionist, Food Consultant and mama, Laura Matthews, to bring you top tips and handy hints when it comes to preparing your little ones lunchbox…
For many parents, as ever, it’s a juggling act in managing workloads and chores alongside varying school drop off, pick up times & meal times right now. Due to the coronavirus some catering companies and in-house kitchens that would usually provide food for schools & nurseries are currently not operating as they are unable to meet social distancing rules. If your education or provider is no longer providing food then here are my top tips for making winning packed lunches for the kids:
Check the school food or packed lunch policy; what do they allow and not allow. Avoid nuts or anything nut based in case of potential nut allergies in other children.
- Avoid single use cling film & plastic sandwich bags for environmental reasons. Instead use reusable containers or wax wrap. For younger children again make sure to choose a lunch box or bag that can be opened easily, is not too heavy and is safe from spillages, lunch leakages are no fun for anyone!
- Ensure to include an ice block to keep food chilled, in case there’s no refrigeration facilities.
- Make extra at meal times for next day’s packed lunch, e.g. leftover roasted veggies (courgettes and carrots are our favourites); slices of chicken, pepper & onion fajita-style are perfect in a flour tortilla wrap; a slice of quiche or potato tortilla; or chopped raw salad vegetables (e.g. cucumber, tomato) can all be transferred easily into tupperware containers.
- Lockdown has got me better at meal planning to minimise trips to the supermarket and it’s been a habit I’ve continued to embrace. Since my son has gone back to nursery I’m thinking ahead to roughly what the contents of his daily packed lunch will look like depending on what we have in the fridge and cupboards. I’ll write a shopping list each weekend for the week ahead either in my diary or in the notes app on my phone. If you haven’t already, have a go at weekly meal planning and see if it makes the juggle a little easier!
- For younger children use crinkle or novelty shaped cutters on fruit and veg such as cucumber, carrots and melon to keep things interesting!
- For those with young children sneak in a compulsory love note into their lunchbox! My son loves finding his each day.
- Packed lunch checklist; a kid’s packed lunch each day should include:
– A portion of starchy carbs, e.g bread, wrap, flatbread, bagel, pitta, pasta, potato, rice, couscous, etc (use wholewheat options where you can).
– At least 1 portion of vegetables & fruit (bite-sized & pre-prepared!). For the 1-4 year age group a portion is classed as 40g.
– A portion of protein food e.g. beans, pulses, eggs, fish, meat or meat-free alternatives. Tinned fish (opt for MSc) such as salmon or mackerel is a cheap and convenient option, just make sure to check for bones before stirring through couscous or pasta.
– A portion of dairy food such as plain yoghurt, cheese or milk. Make a quick yoghurt dip tzatziki style with thick plain yoghurt, grated cucumber, chopped mint and lemon juice for dipping carrot or pepper sticks.
- Try and vary the food offered each day, it’s more exciting for your child & it helps support a varied diet. Using different coloured fruit and vegetables each day is a good place to start. Don’t be afraid to tap into tinned fruit or vegetables (e.g. pear, mango, sweetcorn), opt for fruit in juice (not syrup) and vegetables with no added salt. Keep some spare in the kitchen cupboard, they are handy and convenient when you’re out of fresh produce and still count towards your 5-a-day intake.
- A handful of frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, mango, etc) in a tupperware container are a great addition to a lunchbox as they’ll defrost by the time lunchtime comes around!
NEED THE KIT?
Check out our guide to plastic-free kids lunch box essentials right here