Lovely Lunches and How to Make Them

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & Nutrition
  Published on Wednesday, 08 February 2017

Lovely Lunches and How to Make Them

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & Nutrition
  Published on Wednesday, 08 February 2017
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Another school year is upon us and with it the never-ending drudgery of the dreaded school lunch box. Lunch boxes can be a particularly terrifying prospect for the parents of children who have transitioned from child care, where meals were provided.

And believe me, once the initial novelty wears off and the stark reality of having to think up imaginative, well-balanced meals, which meet your child’s particular foibles, your school's rules, your budget and which are doable in the midst of the morning routine, sinks in, it can cause a sense of doom in even the most pragmatic parents.

So, to set you in direction we thought a course in Lunchbox Prep 101 might be useful.

The equipment

It's great to set your child up with a deep bento-style lunch box which has lots of small compartments. These make it easy to fill with a variety of tasty treats. There are plenty of lunch box options, which include small compartments at all the big retailers and you can get them in rainbow assortment of colours.

A small freezer pack is also useful for keeping lunchbox contents fresh and crunchy. We'd recommend a hard plastic block rather than the squidgy malleable version as it may become the subject of a school yard game.

A small chunky thermos flask with an easy-open lid is a useful addition for serving warm food in the warmer months.

A cheap plastic drink bottle with an easy-open lid is also a must. We say cheap as you will lose many of these over the course of your child's time at school, save the nice bottles for using at home over the weekend.

The food

Children need a balanced diet and variety across the week is the best way to achieve this. Aim for one-two serves of veges one-two serves of fruit, protein, fat, dairy and carbs in every lunch box you send to school.

Although this may sound ambitious, in a lunch box this would break down to cucumber sticks, an apple, a wholemeal tuna wrap with salad and avocado, and a small pot of fruit yoghurt.

Try and keep processed food to a minimum and keep plenty of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetable in the fridge as an easy way to fill the compartments in your box.

Never overlook the power of last night's leftovers. If you had to eat sandwiches everyday you'd probably get bored too, so think about switching out your sandwiches for something different. Leftover pizza is a no-brainer, but pastizzi are also great, you could warm up leftover pasta, lasagne, shepherds pie, chicken drumsticks, quiche etc. Chances are, if your child enjoyed it for dinner then they will also enjoy it for lunch the next day.

Just remember, schools are nut-free so left over pad thai from last night’s Thai take away won't work.

The preparation

Organisation is key when it comes to school lunches. Although many schools have canteens and they are increasingly offering healthier and more inspiring meal options, relying on canteen lunches as a backup gets expensive.

The best thing to do when facing the inevitability of another week/month/year of school lunches is to try and get in the habit of doing them the night before. Have the lunchboxes on the kitchen counter while you are making dinner and while you are chopping the vegetables cut extra for the next morning. Similarly if you are cooking pizza, make extra for lunch.

Preparing everything except the sandwich or main part of the lunch the night before saves time, energy and means you can focus on ingesting your morning brew, rather than slicing carrots into appealing little nuggets.

Also be strategic when shopping buy extra fruit and vegetables so you don't run out for crunch and sip. If you are electing to include processed snacks such as muesli bars or rice crackers, buy in bulk. Many schools have no packaging rules so you may have to decant these snacks into other containers anyway.

The reality

Google lunchbox ideas and you will receive about 14 million (un)helpful hits to pages which showcase the outstanding creative genius of some parents, lunchbox items carved to look like a vista from Frozen, grapes turned into cute little mini chicks, and cheese in the shape of Hello Kitty.

None of that is necessary, if you provide your child with a lunch box mostly full of fresh, unprocessed food that comes home mostly eaten then you have done your job. We salute you!

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2021

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