Healthier school lunches

A healthy packed lunch

Now the kids have gone back to school, the trial of the packed lunch begins.

It can be difficult ensuring your kids are eating what you pack in their lunch box and that what you pack is nutritious and balanced. Between remembering the PE kit and helping with homework, planning the weekly packed lunches can seem daunting and before you know it they are sent off with sandwiches and a wagon wheel again.

While packing a healthy lunch may seem simple, packing a healthy lunch they enjoy can be more difficult, and finding one that doesn’t take hours of preparation can push people to the edge. Though you might invest in your nutrition, following specific diets or enjoying boot camps to help you commit to your lifestyle change, kids are not that way inclined, and in their eyes chocolate spread should be a food group.

The difficulty of finding that delicate balance between healthy and edible, has led to a lot of bloggers and nutritionists discussing the topic online. We have found some of the best and most innovative ways to ensure your kids have a healthy lunch.

Making sure your child stays full is a priority, and so foods that release their energy slowly should be included and our senior nutritionist has given her own insight on the topic of what should be included in your kid’s lunchbox:

“A high fibre lunch with lean proteins, healthy fats and nutrient dense bulk from fruit and vegetables to keep them sustained and alert during the afternoon. [For Example] A wholemeal wrap with chicken, cream cheese and avocado, some cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks, a piece of fresh fruit and a healthy homemade treat such as oat flapjack with pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries.”

Varying the bread

Child eating a sandwich

Though buying a loaf and using it throughout the week is tempting, it is also not very interesting.

Natasha from Natasha’s Kitchen is quick to point out that variety is the best way to keep their interest. Whether you opt for wraps, rolls, pittas or bagels, not the same sandwiches every day for the school year will make sure your children keep munching.

You can also use crackers, cheese and ham as a DIY lunchable. Though not the shop bought version, they are fresher and far less processed so a healthier choice. Encouraging your children to assemble their own lunch is a quick way to get them interested in food. A similar principle is used for sandwich kebabs as Natasha shows with her turkey sandwich kabobs. Stacking whole meal bread, cheese and sliced meat on to a kebab stick, is a tactile way of involving your children. Ensure they are sensible and safe with the stick however.

Many children are not fond of the texture of meat and this can lead to difficulties over what to use as a sandwich filling that will still give them enough protein. Champneys’s nutritionist has some great recommendations for alternatives:

“You could try a healthy homemade crust-less quiche as an alternative to a sandwich, go for a salad based lunch with wholegrain couscous /quinoa and mixed beans with some roasted vegetables or try a tuna crunch filling for a wrap or as a topping for oatcakes.”


Healthy granola bars

Who can deny the ease of a shop bought packet of crisps or a small snack bag.

So many schools also ban nuts, which can make finding a healthy alternative to chocolate a little more difficult. Our nutritionist insists sugary snacks are not the answer:

“Avoid treats laden with processed sugar and salt and try homemade popcorn sweetened with agave and cinnamon, trail mix made with low sugar granola, added dried fruit and seeds (many school do not allow nuts due to allergy risks), or fruit sticks with yoghurt dip. “

Sarah from A Saucy Kitchen has come up with a quick and easy recipe for breakfast bars, and though they may appear to be covered in chocolate, they are secretly sneaking bananas and dates in under the guise of a treat.

For those looking for a chocolate free snack (some schools are stringent) Erin at Well Plated has the perfect alternative with her oat and strawberry bars. Batch baking these bars at the weekend and keeping them in an air tight container, will ensure you have healthy snacks for the whole family through the week. You can always trial different flavours and find out what your family prefers.

A substitute for crisps that has seen popularity recently, is popcorn. Tyrells have brought out poshcorn for a grown up snack, however you can get inventive with your own flavours and ensure it sticks to your nutritional choices for your children. You can cover in sweet or savoury flavours and it won’t get squashed on the way to school. Healthy chocolate brown bagged popcorn from Arman on Super Healthy Kids is perfect for those looking for a sweet choice. Meanwhile Robyn on Simply Fresh Dinners has some great savoury ideas with Lemony Kale Popcorn.


Child with raspberries on fingers

Packing fruit in an edible and easily accessible form, that won’t go brown or come back a little more battered than it left the house, is a challenge.

Deb Blakely from Kids Dig Food knows the stress of creating the perfect lunch box:

“When Miss 8 first started at child care many years ago I was incredibly hard on myself when packing her lunchbox. I tussled with the dream of providing a bento box masterpiece, enough variety, enough food (but not too much), food she’d eat and not waste, avoiding additives, preservatives and anything in a packet. I wanted it to be filled with interestingnutritious, delicious food that would help show a little bit of her mum’s love for her while we were apart.”

When it comes to providing fruit, Deb not only suggests fruit that doesn’t need much preparation, but also consider what your child likes. Little pots of fresh berries are fun, tactile and healthy and quick to prepare in the morning.

Alternatively fruit in different form can be just as exciting and nutritious. Banana chips are quick to pack and pear crisps look like a favourite snack. Head to Just a Taste to find sugar free fruit winders that are guaranteed to keep your kids happy.


Child eating corn

Every parent wishes their child will be happy chowing down on carrot sticks or perfectly satisfied with some sliced pepper.

The notoriety of children’s dislike of vegetables is not unfounded and many parents have despaired of feeding their child a balanced meal.

Charity from Foodlets may have found the answer to every parent’s prayers, vegetables masquerading as muffins. These innocent looking cakes actually contain broccoli, courgette, carrots, apple and banana- incredible. Throwing any combination into these muffins is almost a guarantee of getting them into your children and they are relatively mess free.

Finding a healthy dip of choice is also a great way of encouraging children to eat veg. Whether they can be persuaded by hummus, sour cream or salsa, packing a portion of condiment and chopping cucumber sticks (reassembled and held together with a band to keep them fresh) is a great way to inspire children.

Now the kids are back at school in their shiny new shoes, must have stationary, brand new uniforms and with a healthy packed lunches, you are probably in need of a spa break. Why not consider Champneys day spas in your area for a quick pick me up or a resort break for you and your partner to enjoy child free time one weekend?