The Packed Lunch Diaries
Step One. Choose 1 Starch + 1 Protein item.
- Sandwich/wrap/pitta/bun/roll (you get the message):
- Chicken + mayo/natural yoghurt/plain chicken
- Ham/ham +salad/ham + cheese
- Tuna/tuna + sweetcorn + natural yoghurt/tuna + cucumber
- Smoked salmon + cream cheese
- Cheese/cheese + mayo/natural yoghurt + apple
- Egg mayo/ egg + natural yoghurt + shredded lettuce
- Pasta + sausage/tuna/ham
- Cheesy cake slice
- Rainbow rice
This list is just the beginning! You really can have so many different combinations to keep it interesting each week by changing it up (add a little red pepper to an egg and natural yoghurt wrap or sliced cucumber to a ham and cheese sandwich..).
Step Two. Choose 2 Vegetables.
- Sugar snap peas
- Peppers (red is the favourite in my house)
- Sliced tomatoes/cherry tomatoes
- Broccoli (raw or slightly cooked then cooled to stop it continuing to cook)
- Beetroot cubes
This list is not exhaustive but a good start. If you’re not sure what vegetables your kids love ask them! They will enjoy eating something more if they feel like they’ve helped prepare it. Ask them what they’d like and get them to choose one or two vegetables each night, for the next day. One portion is ~40g so if you get used to seeing what that looks like you’ll know how many portions of fruit/veg they’ve had each day..another feel good factor!
Step Three. Choose 1 Dairy/dairy replacement.
- Plain natural yoghurt/dairy free alternative (if you have a medical reason for avoiding dairy, or you are vegan, choose a dairy-free alternative, otherwise, dairy should be an important part of daily life).
- Natural yoghurt with fruit in (I often put a slice of frozen kiwi/berries in which keeps the yoghurt cold until lunchtime and adds a bit of zing to plain yoghurt!).
- A low* sugar flavoured yoghurt (the option for kids who refuse natural yoghurt!) *By low I mean have a look at what is available, if natural yoghurt is a no go at the moment, get the lowest sugar content you can find. I would buy organic yoghurt like ‘Rachel’s’, for example.
- Cheese/vegan ‘cheese’ cut into shapes or sticks
- Milkshake made with just milk and a small amount of fruit (2 strawberries with 200ml milk, for example)
Step Four. Choose 1 or 2 Fruits.
- Kiwi fruit
- Passion fruit
Make the fruit as accessible as possible by washing a portion (~40g) and putting in a sealable pot or sandwich bag. Some fruits need peeling or they won’t feel like they have enough time to eat it. Peel kiwi fruit, mango, pineapple, papaya, orange.. + cut into slices/cubes/strips. Cut grapes in half to avoid a choking hazard.
Step Five. Choose 1 or 2 Snacks.
Some schools suggest bringing in a snack for them to have at break time. I think it’s a great idea as they need a little energy boost mid morning/mid afternoon to keep hunger at bay while they’re learning and playing. Choose 1 or 2 depending on how hungry your child gets.
- 2 Dried apricots
- Handful of raisins/little kid sized box raisins
- Homemade cake slice (eg. a bran flake cake)
- ‘Bear’ Yo Yo (although these are sugary they are an occasional purchase in my house just because the kids love them and I do advocate everything in moderation..)
- Handful of home-popped corn (the things you can do with popcorn! pop some the night before and then just add a sprinkle of whatever takes their fancy.. paprika? vanilla powder? chilli powder? the options are endless! Or just plain)
- Flapjack (beware of the sugar content of shop-bought varieties so ideal to make a batch on a Sunday night and you can control how much sweetness you add.. or you could just cut smaller squares so it’s a bitesize taster rather than doorstop wedge?)
- Crackers (these can be salty so I wrap about 4 mini crackers in cling film to keep them crunchy and even though that sounds ridiculous, 4 is enough and they sometimes don’t even eat all 4!)
- Geo bar (or similar ‘children’s muesli bar.’ Another ‘occasional purchase’)
- Handful of cereal in a sealed bag (more on cereal later)
- Half a scone or any similar home made item laying around
Step Six. Choose 1 Drink.
Keeping kids hydrated while at school is often overlooked yet can really affect their productivity and mood! Keep them topped up with a nice drink at lunchtime.
- Water is the obvious choice for me since our bodies need it every day, it’s cheap and available in every kitchen! I put ice cubes in their water bottle to help it keep cold.
- Fruity water. If your kids aren’t used to drinking water or they claim not to like the taste (providing you want them to drink it) you can compromise by gradually diluting their desired drink over the course of a week or so. Alternatively, you can add slices of frozen lemon or orange, for example, to a bottle of water to make fruity water.
- Milkshake. Blitz ~200ml milk with your chosen fruit and you have homemade milkshake with a fraction of the added sugar you may find in commercial milkshakes. Bear in mind that you don’t need a lot of fruit to make the milk taste fruity — a couple of strawberries would do it.
Use this guide to plan and execute packed lunches without the stress of not knowing what to put in.
Recipes and advice to come..