5 Steps to Packing a Healthy Lunchbox
As schools begin to return, so too does the dreaded ‘morning rush’ of alarm-setting, breakfast-making, and lunch-box-packing. Whilst your child’s main concerns are probably regarding the deliciousness of the food, you are left worrying about things like the nutritional content, whether it’s environmentally friendly, and avoiding potential allergens.
Here are some ideas for school lunch boxes that tick all these boxes. Nutritionally beneficial, and delicious enough to ensure the contents won’t end up in the school bin.
Packing A Nutritious Lunch Box
Nutritionally speaking, it’s important to find the right balance of the three macros in your child’s lunch box; carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Selecting a range of foods from these five food groups can help to ensure that you are meeting their nutrition requirements:
1. Vegetables, legumes, and beans.
3. Whole grains and seeds
4. Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu.
5. Dairy (or substitutes)
Some Lunch Box Inspiration
1. Vegetables, legumes, and beans
· Frozen edamame – let them thaw naturally and they’ll be ready by recess.
· Roasted chickpeas – Roast them yourself with a sprinkle of salt and extra virgin olive oil.
· Falafels – A great source of protein and fibre.
· Lunch box-friendly veggies – carrots, baby cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, capsicum, celery.
· Roasted fava beans – The Happy Snack Co. have some great snack options.
· Veggie fritters – Corn and zucchini fritters can be made ahead of time in large batches, frozen, and thawed as needed, and make really delicious snack options for school.
· Seaweed snacks – easy-to-make and nutrient-dense.
· Berries, pineapple, kiwi, mango…any seasonal fruit can be cut up and included. Just make sure you store it in a leak-proof container.
· Homemade fruit straps.
· Stewed rhubarb and apple (Peaches, apricots and plums also work well!).
3. Whole Grains and seeds
· Corn tortillas with guacamole
· Brown rice salad
· Wholegrain pasta with passata and vegetables.
· Wholemeal sourdough sandwich (or to dip in soup).
· Leftover fried rice.
· Homemade oat muesli bars.
· Chia pudding.
· Pumpkin seeds.
4. Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, or tofu
· Boiled eggs.
· Tinned fish.
· Omelette – plain or with added vegetables. Can be cut with a cookie cutter into fun shapes for the littlies.*
· Marinated tofu strips.
· Frittata with mushrooms and vegetables.*
· Leftover chicken leg, pork chop, or lamb cutlet.
5. Dairy or alternatives
· Tub of Greek, soy, or coconut yoghurt.
· Tasty, cheddar or Swiss cheese.
· Feta or cottage cheese with wholegrain crackers.
· Homemade smoothie with favourite fruits and seeds.
Make a Plan
Making a lunch box meal plan can help by omitting those last-minute decisions on what to pack in the lunch box during the early-morning/before-school craziness. It will also help you to plan your weekly grocery shop and keep up some variety, ensuring that your little one stays interested in eating the contents of the lunch box, and helping to maintain a greater level of calm in your morning routine.
Finding the Right Lunch Box
There are so many lunch box options on the market these days. Ideally you’ll find one that can adapt to a variety of lunch box options, is BPA free, dishwasher safe, not too bulky for the school bag, and leak-proof. You may also prefer an insulated option, particularly if you’re packing yoghurts or smoothies.
Here are some great options:
*Be sure to check your school policy on eggs and other allergens.
Written By Clare Carrick
Clare Carrick is an accredited nutritionist whose special interests involve gut health, diet and its effect on mental health, early childhood nutrition, and the impact that diet during pregnancy can have on the health of the offspring. Clare studied a BHSc (nutrition & health promotion) at Deakin University, and completed an internship at the Food & Mood Centre, which specialises in nutritional psychiatry.
Although Clare enjoys getting deep in the science behind nutrition, she is also all about balance! Life is busy for her with two daughters under five and a growing nutrition business and, in all honesty, coffee is often her 1st thought when the alarm goes off in the morning! Whilst the abundance and diversity of the Mediterranean diet is definitely a favourite way of eating for Clare, perhaps her favourite part of it is the bit where she gets to sink into the couch at the end of a long day with a glass of red and know that the polyphenols are doing good things for her microbes.