School is back this week and while many of you are likely breathing sighs of relief, for many, this brings with it the dreaded daily battle of what to put in your little one’s lunch box! Our Paediatric Dietitian and Founder, Olivia Bates shares some of her favourite healthy lunch box fillers, as well as some practical tips to keep things food safe and time friendly.
When it comes to the ‘gear’, we (like almost everyone these days) is loving this whole bento box trend. It means you can offer lots of variety (a big dietitian tick from me) to keep your bubs nourished and energised throughout the day. When little Jack & Ted Wipfli started school last year, Lisa shared some of the most popular lunchboxes, as reported by many parents through her Instagram Poll. Take a look here to see some other parent’s favourite gear!
So what should I be filling my healthy lunch box it with?
- Boiled eggs – a protein powerhouse! And the yolk contains Choline which is great for growing brains (can be a little smelly but if your little one is capable of peeling themselves then packing with the shells on will minimise the smell)
- Cheese – a great source of protein and calcium, excellent for growing bones.
- Wraps – a nice alternative to your standard sandwich, opt for a wholemeal / wholegrain option with as few ingredients as possible. Try and choose protein-rich fillings (such as Salmon & Cream Cheese, Turkey, Chicken, Egg), which will keep your little one satisfied for longer as well as providing them with the iron and protein their growing bodies need
- Favourite brand: Mountain Bread (low sodium option with less than 120mg/serve)
- Dips such as hummus – can be a great way of encouraging your little one to eat more vegetables! Serve a little tub with some chopped up veggies!
- Try our Beetroot Hummous recipe here
- Favourite brand: Yalla
- Chopped fresh vegetables – offer a number of different options and different colours to ensure a range of nutrients but also to create a colourful and appealing looking lunchbox! And don’t be limited to just celery, cucumber and carrots, try less conventional options such as raw beans, snow peas, cherry tomatoes (chop if your child is under 4/5)
- Roasted veg – cubes of sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin are particular faves!
- Homemade sushi – use brown rice or quinoa for a more nutrient-dense alternative to white rice, as well as your little one’s favourite filling
- Meatballs/rissoles – try different meats (lamb/chicken/beef/turkey) and hide some veggies in there
- Fritters / Pikelets /Pancakes – use wholemeal flour and veg/fruit to boost nutrition!
- We love these delicious Blueberry Apple Pancakes
- Mini Frittatas/Savoury Muffins – use literally any filling you like, pour over the egg mix and some grated cheese, bake for 15-20 minutes
- Try this Delicious Bacon & Zucchini option
- Rice paper rolls – filled with noodles, veg, shredded chicken and a served with a dipping sauce
- Wholemeal Pizza Scrolls – these Broccoli Pesto Scrolls are a sure fave!
Sweet Treats & Snacks
- Fresh Fruit – a nutritious sweet treat! Like your veg, make sure you’re mixing up what is on offer and always choose in-season options! During Summer, try freezing grapes and orange segments for a cool and refreshing snack for your healthy lunch box
- Yoghurt – during the warmer months, freeze the yoghurt overnight (in a pouch or tupperware). Opt for an unsweetened Greek Yoghurt as opposed to children’s yoghurts which often contain large amounts of added sugar, with the exception of a few (Tamar Valley is a good compromise). Sweeten the yoghurt yourself with fruit purees/vanilla extract/cinnamon.
- Favourite Brands/Products: Tamar Valley, Farmer’s Union Greek Style Natural, Chobani No Fat Plain or Full Fat Plain Yoghurt
- Homemade biscuits & muffins – the great thing about homemade options is you can make easy swaps like white flour for wholemeal flour, swap sugars for fruit/veg purees and boost the overall nutritional content so you can actually feel good about giving them to your little ones!
- Bliss Balls – a great little sweet treat, with so many recipes out there.
- We love these Pumpkin Pie Bliss Balls for a nut-free lunchbox option with the benefits of vitamin A rich pumpkin
- Smoothies – freeze homemade smoothies overnight, so they can be a refreshingly morning tea snack! They will likely defrost or partially defrost by the time your little one gets to enjoy it. Plus the frozen container will help keep the rest of the contents of their lunchbox cold. Smoothies are also a great way of getting in extra nutrition, like adding in some veggies!
- We love this Antioxidant Rich Berry Smoothie
And a few final tips on healthy lunch box ideas…
At the end of the day, a fed child is a happy child so don’t be too tough on yourself or compare yourself with other parents. Batch cooking is your friend and remember, many things can be made in advance and shoved in the freezer or refrigerator. Muffins, pancakes, pikelets, fritters and frittatas can all be frozen and defrosted as required. Boiled eggs can be prepared on the weekend and stored in the fridge for the week and chopped carrots and celery will happily sit in a container of water in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Finally, remember in the summer heat especially, foods can heat up quickly. For the purpose of food safety, it is best to include ice bricks around a meal or in a lunchbox. Fortunately these days most lunchboxes can either be frozen themselves or include ice blocks so make sure you are utilising these to keep foods fresh and safe!
For more articles like this, head to our Parenting Tips category!
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