by Clare Clarke, Digital Communications Expert

Lunchbox filled with healthy food

Most parents have seen it – elaborate fruit carvings, sushi sculptures, banana palm trees, panda shaped boiled eggs… a lunchbox overflowing with so much pride that a kaleidoscope of colours probably beams right out during the much anticipated recess reveal.

Don’t get me wrong. I have much respect for the parents who create these incredible masterpieces but for a busy mum of three, these lunch luxuries will not be making an appearance in my children’s lunchboxes anytime soon.

Whilst my lunchboxes may never be Pinterest worthy (or beam with a kaleidoscope of colours for that matter), I’m fortunate enough to work with a number of knowledgeable dietitians who have critiqued some ‘real’ lunchboxes for me.  As you will see below, it only takes a few simple changes to whip together a nutritional feed that will leave your kids fuller for longer and packed with goodness.

Lunchbox #1

lunchbox #1

The good bits:

  • Small wrap pieces are good for small hands and mouths
  • Vegie sticks and dip is a great way to get more veg in, especially if the dip is made of vegetables!
  • Not shown here: whole fruit and water bottle for Crunch&Sip
  • Popcorn is a great crunchy snack – make it at home for a cheaper and healthier option

To work on:

  • Squeezing in a few more vegies would be great. Grated carrot or shredded lettuce in the wrap would be good (pat dry on a paper towel to avoid a soggy wrap).
  • Ham (and other smoked, salted, cured and processed meats) are okay every now and again, but fresh meat (like roast beef or shredded chicken) is a better option.
  • Chocolate biscuits are not ideal. A fruit based mini-muffin would have more fibre and less sugar, making it a more filling snack. Hint: bake a batch on the weekend and put them in the freezer. They can go in the lunchbox frozen and will be defrosted by recess.

Lunchbox #2

lunchbox #2

The good bits:

  • Vegie dippers!
  • Dried fruit – it’s like nature’s candy! Fresh is best, but dried is a good thing to have on hand in case you run out. It can be very sticky in your teeth so teach kids to do a good water swish after eating it if they don’t have the chance to brush their teeth.

To work on:

  • I could write a whole page about muesli bars! Even the fruit and yoghurt flavours often have as much sugar and fat as a small chocolate bar. Very few muesli bars meet our guidelines by having less than 15 g sugar per 100 g. Making your own, cutting them in half or only having them occasionally is a good move.

Lunchbox #3

lunchbox #3

The good bits:

  • Vegemite, cheese and lettuce was my favourite sandwich as a kid!
  • Multigrain bread uses whole grains and generally has more fibre than white bread. Excellent choice.
  • Yoghurt is a great lunchbox snack, and this one is a winner because it’s low fat and still has less than 15 g sugar per 100 g. Sometimes low fat yoghurts are very high in sugar but this one’s okay.

To work on:

  • A few cherry tomatoes or cucumber wheels would boost the vegies and provide lots of colour and variety.
  • A boiled egg would be a great addition, especially if your child complains of being hungry. The protein helps them feel fuller for longer.

Lunchbox #4

lunchbox #4

The good bits:

  • Grainy bread roll! Using different breads, wraps and rolls keeps up the variety in the lunchbox.
  • Sometimes convenience is the priority, and that’s where foods like those rice snacks come in! Read the label, paying special attention to the fat and salt. These are a ‘sometimes’ food, but there are some okay ones available. Plain rice crackers or grainy crackers are a good choice.

To work on:

  • I haven’t seen this fruity bar before, but it’s probably not a better choice than fruit! Canned fruit (in water, not syrup) is a good pantry staple to have on standby for days when the fruit bowl is empty.

Lunchbox #5

lunchbox #5

The good bits:

  • Snow peas, cherry tomatoes, strawberries and grapes are lunchbox heroes – they’re already bite-size!
  • You don’t need special lunchbox cheese snacks, straight off the block is fine.

To work on

  • Adding a couple of vegies to the chicken and mayo sandwich would add some colour. Grating carrot, apple and cabbage and making a chicken and slaw sandwich is one of my favourites. Bonus: these are ‘dry’ vegies that won’t make your bread soggy in five minutes.

Lunchbox #6

lunchbox #6

The good bits:

  • Brown bread. Wholemeal flour usually has more fibre than white bread. That’s good for your guts. If you’re trying to switch from white bread to wholemeal, try making sandwiches with one slice of each. Serving new foods with familiar ones can help them be accepted.
  • Crackers and cheese don’t need to come in individual packets to go in lunchboxes. Getting a big pack like this and dividing it up is cheaper, makes less rubbish and lets you adjust the portion size better. That’s a win, win, win!

To work on:

Some vegies please! How about these less obvious choices?

  • Small container of baked beans
  • Frozen peas, carrots, corn mix
  • Celery boats with cream cheese
  • Hummus or guacamole as a sandwich spread or dip
  • Pikelets with carrot, pumpkin or zucchini grated into the batter
  • Felafel or rissoles (with vegies in) as a sandwich filling
  • More snacks from LiveLighter

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