School lunch is such an important meal for children – it provides the fuel they need to see them through an afternoon of learning. Ideally there should be a good balance of macronutrients (ie. carbohydrates, proteins and fats) in your child’s lunch box:
– Carbohydrates: grains, vegetables and fruit – these provide a quick burst of energy and nutrients.
– Protein: fish, meat, eggs, dairy – protein provides a much slower and long lasting release of energy and support for cognitive function.
– Fats: avocado, oils, butter, full fat dairy, olives – fats help to balance energy levels, keep your child fuller for longer and provide much needed nourishment for a developing brain.
However, while this sounds simple in theory, as mum to two young children, I am well aware that in practice getting a variety of good quality macronutrients into a child’s lunch can be a challenge. Children are typically very happy to eat refined carbohydrates (white bread, crisps, sweet snacks) and some amount of protein (often ham, which can vary in quality, and cheese), but they may become fussy if other foods are added– for example wholegrains, or proteins such as fish, chicken or humous, or fats such as avocado and olives.
So here are some of my tried and tested ways of getting my children to eat a wider variety of foods and so give them a much needed nutrient boost at lunchtime:
- Wholemeal wraps, pitta or bread with your choice of protein filling: Chicken or tuna with sweetcorn and mayo; humous, or even better, mash some ripe avocado into humous and add grated cheese. Egg mayonnaise. Good quality ham off the bone.
- Homemade pizza slices. My daughter loves these! I make up a large batch of veggie filled tomato sauce and freeze in ice cube trays. See my recipe below. I then defrost a few cubes in the morning, spread over a wrap or pitta and sprinkle with grated cheese. Then bake in the oven for approx 10 mins on 200⁰C. Allow to cool and slice.
- Pasta in a pot with finely chopped chicken or tuna, sweetcorn and mayonnaise.
- A selection of crackers or breadsticks with a Tupperware pot with a selection of humous, cherry tomatoes, cheese, olives, pieces of chicken or ham. Interesting Tupperware containers with divided sections can really help out with this kind of lunch!
- Use mini skewers to serve olives, cheese cubes and cherry tomatoes.
- Put together a fruit pot with different berries, melon cubes, grapes, satsuma segments etc. Or thread fruit pieces onto skewers – there really is something about food on a stick that entices children!
- Small pot of yoghurt. I serve my children plain yoghurt in a small Tupperware pot. Add honey or berries if needed for added sweetness – flavoured shop bought yoghurts (even the seemingly healthy ones) can contain a LOT of added sugar.
- Museli bars – though watch out – these can also contain loads of extra sugar. Organix Goodies Oaty bars are quite good. Or make your own sugar free flapjacks with Xylitol – see recipe below.
- Smoothie Pouch – this is one of my favourite lunchbox items because I can hide loads of good stuff within! Buy some reusable food pouches. I got mine on Amazon. Then blitz a combination of superfood ingredients (ie. berries, fruit such as apple, pear, orange etc, chia seeds, flax seeds, cacao nibs, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, avocado, honey, natural yoghurt). Decant into pouches and freeze. You really can be inventive with your recipe, though if you want to follow my recipe, then see below. Make up a large batch to fill approx 6 pouches then freeze. A good blender helps to get a really smooth consistency. Put one in your child’s lunchbox in the morning and it will have defrosted by lunchtime. You can use shop bought pouches but they are usually laden with fruit sugars. Make your own and you can smuggle all sorts of super ingredients into the recipe!
- Avocado chocolate mousse – this is so delicious – you honestly can’t taste the avocado. See the full recipe below. Make a few portions in advance and freeze in small plastic pots. Take out of the freezer and pop into lunchbox as needed.
Veggie Tomato Sauce
· 1 small onion, chopped
· 3 cloves garlic, chopped
· 4 large tomatoes, chopped
· 150g butternut squash, peeled and chopped into small cubes
· 1 medium carrot, chopped
· Half a red pepper, deseeded and chopped
· 2 tsp tomato puree
· 250g passata
· Handful of kale
· 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
· 1 tbsp honey
· 2 bay leaves
· ½ a large avocado or one whole small avocado, peeled and de-stoned
· Fry the onion in a little oil or butter until soft. Add the garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for another minute.
· Add all the other ingredients except the avocado, bring to the boil and simmer for 45 mins or until all the veg is soft. You want quite a thick mixture so take the lid off for the end of cooking if it seems too liquid.
· Remove bay leaves and puree the mixture in a good blender with the avocado.
· Allow to cool, then decant into freezer pots or ice cube trays and keep in the freezer until needed. Can be used for pasta or pizza.
Sugar Free Flapjacks
· 100g butter or coconut oil – or a mix of both
· 100g xylitol
· 100g oats
· 1 tsp ground cinnamon
· 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
· 2 tbsp water
· 50g pumpkin seeds – chopped
· 2 tbsp raw cacao nibs
· 2 tbsp chia seeds
· Handful of coconut chips – roughly chopped
· Preheat the oven to 180⁰C and line a 20cm x 20cm baking tray with parchment.
· Mix the ground flaxseed with water and put aside for 10 mins to allow it to achieve a gooey consistency. The butter and/or coconut oil should be soft. Mix with the xylitol until smooth.
· Add the ground cinnamon and oats and mix thoroughly.
· Add the flaxseed mixture to bind the flapjacks. Mix in the pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, chia seeds and coconut chips.
· Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking tray. Press down. Bake for 25-30 mins until golden brown on top. Allow to cool and slice into squares.
· 1 small ripe avocado, peeled and stone removed
· 1 cup berries – I use frozen blueberries and raspberries
· 2 apples/pears (leave the peel on if you blender can cope with it)
· 1 orange or satsuma
· 1 tbsp coconut oil
· 1 tbsp tahini or almond nut butter (optional)
· 1 tbsp chia seeds
· 1 tbsp flaxseeds
· 1 tbsp raw cacao nibs
· 1 tbsp honey
· Approx 250g (2 small pots of yoghurt) – you can use more if you wish
· Put all ingredients into a blender, or use a hand blender. Blitz until completely smooth. A good blender really makes a difference here. I find that the mixture needs to be completely smooth or I get complaints!
· Divide mixture into approx 6 -8 smoothie pouches or small Tupperware pots and keep in the freezer until needed. They take approx 3 hours to defrost completely, or you can place in a bowl of warm water to speed up the process.
Chocolate Avocado Mousse
· 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and stone removed
· 3 tbsp honey
· 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
· 1 tbsp tahini (optional)
· 2 tbsp cocoa powder
· 2 tbsp any liquid (water, juice, milk, non-dairy milk..)
· Put all ingredients into a blender, or use a hand blender. Blitz until completely smooth.
· Divide mixture into approx 6 small pots and keep in the freezer until needed. They only take approx 1 hour to defrost.
I hope this has given you some new ideas. Enjoy!