The summer holidays may have seemed like they were going on forever while you were in the middle of them, but they will be over soon. It’s now time to start planning for your little ones to go back to school, which means sorting out uniforms, buying new pencil cases and looking at what is going to go in their lunchboxes.
Getting kids to eat healthily can be a nightmare as it is, but if you’re not there watching over them at lunchtime, it can be a lot harder to make sure they are getting a good meal. Everything that goes into their lunchboxes needs to be tasty, healthy and designed to help them do their best at school. However, when your kids would rather eat crisps and chocolate bars, this isn’t the easiest thing to achieve.
The best way to ensure your children are happy with their lunch and eat all the healthy things rather than just the treats is to make what you pack as interesting as possible. Give up on the soggy cheese sandwich and bruised banana and try some of these ideas instead:
A great way to keep lunchtime interesting is to pack up several mini boxes that hold different foods. This means you can make sure there is something for every food group, a snack for break time and plenty to keep your kids interested.
Mini lunch boxes also mean you have more options when it comes to the types of food you can pack for your kids. This allows you to mix things up a lot more and even get your children involved in packing their lunches, as you can designate a box for each food group to help them understand the importance of a balanced diet.
Yes, cutting food into shapes may be a bit of a hassle, but if you have young children, it can also be the difference between them eating everything and refusing to even try something. Using cookie cutters to make sandwiches, fruit and vegetables all different shapes adds a bit of fun and can make their lunch seem extra special.
Bags of crisps aren’t the healthiest options and yet our kids can’t get enough of them. Rather than buy a multi-pack and pop a bag that contains a lot of fat and salt in their lunch every day, make your own vegetable chips.
Thinly sliced vegetables can be baked with herbs and spices to create tasty and healthy crisp alternatives that your kids will love. You can even get them involved with putting the slices on your baking tray and adding flavour so your little ones get excited about trying them at lunch the next day.
Old favourites with a twist
Cheese or ham sandwiches may be a good standby to have, but they aren’t the most interesting option. You might find that your kids get bored of the same thing, even if it has been a week since they had it.
Finding a way to give them an easy lunch that looks different can really transform their lunch and even make it healthier. For example, instead of making sandwiches, use your filling to make a burrito with a tortilla wrap. Simply roll up the filling in a wholemeal tortilla – throwing in some sauce and salad to bulk it out – and wrap it in tin foil to make it look like a real burrito.
You can even go for Mexican inspired fillings like guacamole, sour cream and fajita chicken if you’re feeling adventurous. If you want to make lunch a bit more interactive, try packing up each of the individual ingredients separately and letting your children put their own burrito together – although you may want to show them the best way to wrap it first!
Any food that your kids need to do something with is a great option and one of the easiest choices is dips and vegetable sticks. Not only is this a great way to make veggies more interesting, it’s also a fairly healthy option, especially if you make dips like houmous yourself – which your children can get involved with too.
You could even combine fun shaped veggies with a dip to try and entice them to try something new. Even if the rest of their lunch is something they are used to, this little addition could make all the difference.
Instead of just putting a yoghurt or fromage frais in their lunchbox, mix things up a bit and create your own yoghurt pots. This is a good idea if you want to steer clear of yoghurts with a lot of added sugar and cut down on cost, as you can use natural yoghurt, which is healthier and cheaper.
Combine the yoghurt with things like low-sugar granola, oats, chopped or dried fruit, honey, unsweetened chocolate and anything else your kids like. Once again, you can put the pot together yourself or place all the separate ingredients in their lunch box to let them do it. They may end up eating a few of the ingredients on their own rather than mixing it with the yoghurt, but so long as they’re eating it all, it doesn’t really matter.
It’s easy enough to tell kids off for not eating their lunch, but rewarding them for trying new things – even if they didn’t finish it all – is a great way to encourage them to eat healthier.
Check their lunchbox with them every day to find out what they liked, as well as what they didn’t and why. If they tried new things, ate a bit of everything or finished it all, they can get a star on a chart, which will add up to a reward – such as a lunch of their choice.
Not only will this get your kids to be more engaged with what they’re eating, it means you won’t end up making the same things over and over when they don’t like them, cutting down on waste food and ensuring everyone is happy.