A lunchbox has such potential for being a great meal. The deal breaker is if it’s eaten or not. What makes a lunch appealing, tasty and fit the nutrition criteria? The key components include advance planning and input from both kids and parents. This immediately takes the stress out of the equation.
Sometimes it’s easier to just throw a quick lunch meat sandwich in a baggie with some sweet treats, maybe an apple and send them out the door. Having suggestions from kids can take more time, but in the end it’s win-win all around.
Letting your kids have a say gives them responsibility and teaches them what makes a good lunch. Listen up parents, there are specific food groups to pack each day. As soon as your kids get i t– admittedly after telling them 100 times – they will be able to pack it themselves without your hawk-eye over their shoulder.
Here’s what every lunch needs:
Energy foods: Carbohydrates give energy. Think grains, rice, bread, pasta, potato (white and sweet), fruits and vegetables to a certain extent (that’ll come later too).
Building and sustaining foods: Protein makes the energy foods last longer. Keep kids (and adults) satiated longer with more even keeled energy, concentration and better memory. Think meat, fish, tofu, cheese and other dairy products, quinoa, legumes, nuts and seeds and eggs.
Related: Delicious sandwich ideas
Fruits and vegetables: Hydration and energy, vitamins and plant nutrients (phytonutrients) come from all fruits and vegetables. They are sweet and give fibre that again, sustain energy levels. Green vegetables contain the highest nutrient content for the most part, so use at will. Your goal is to pack as many different colours as possible. The phytonutrient potential is endless.
How to put it together:
- Rice is energy food. Add in some tofu or leftover meat as the protein. Toss with some diced peppers, carrots and ripped up spinach. Add a peach or apple on the side with some hummus and crackers and that’s a well rounded lunch. Send water or diluted juice.
- A sandwich or bagel (which is equal to four slices of bread by the way), is very energy or carb heavy, so needs more protein to balance it than a wrap. You’d have to spread cream cheese as thick as that bagel to balance it out. I can’t see it happening. Stick to a wrap or thinner bread. Again add in some frozen mango and blueberries that’ll thaw or be crunchy by recess. In another container, fill with sugar snap peas or peas in their pod. Such fun.
- Soup is an excellent thermos option as so much can be packed into it. Beans or legumes, meat or fish and a rainbow of vegetables too. When it’s pureed no one knows what’s in there! Serve with pita or crackers for the carb and a piece of fruit. Again send hydration. Preferably water or diluted juice.
Write some ideas on a white board or page next to the family calendar so your kids can consult it and you discuss what makes up a good lunch and what their options are.
MORE NUTRITION ADVICE FROM LIANNE: