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Top tips for packing school lunches

It's that time of year all over again- back to school!

Many people seem to struggle with packing a lunch, but more so those packing a school lunch. So, I've compiled my top tips for packing lunches and created some ideas to make lunch fun again!

P.S. Many of these tips are helpful for teenagers and adults too!!

If you prefer to watch, rather than read, check out my video:

My top tips:

Aim to include at least 3 food groups in the lunch box. [For reference the food groups are: carbohydrates, fruit and veggies, protein, fats and oils, dairy and of course the "other" stuff (sweeties etc). ] By including multiple food groups you are ensuring the child gets a range of nutrients and lots of energy to fuel a busy day.

Give them foods they like. If you have a fussy eater, it's best to save the "new" foods for breakfast, dinner or weekends. When they're at school you want to make sure they are actually eating food- you may send a salad with the best intentions for their health, but if they don't eat it and skip lunch you'll have a hangry child come 2pm! Save the battles over new foods for meals when you are there. Only give tried and tested foods for packed lunches.

Involve them in the process. Ask what they would like for lunch- obviously don't give them free reign, but an option of 2 or 3 lunches makes them feel like they decided. If you are short for time in the morning, making a plan at the start of the week or on Sunday is a great idea. Everyone knows what they're getting and mornings run with a bit less drama. You can display the meal plan on the fridge for everyone to check (use pictures if you have young ones!). Get them involved prepping food and packing their own lunch too. If they helped to make it, they are more likely to eat it.

Make it appealing. I'm not suggesting anything fancy, but if it looks appetising they are more likely to be excited to eat it. Include a variety of colours, use a fun lunch box and get creative whenever you can. Also, limit "smelly" foods. If it is going to sit in a school bag for a few hours, avoid foods that are going to smell up the class room by break time- think tuna, egg etc. Smelly food is not appealing!!

Switch it up. Don't rely on sandwiches everyday. Yes they are handy and quick and you child may love them, but don't over do them in the first week! Variety is the spice of life!

Don't limit lunch boxes to "traditional" school lunch foods. I always had non-conventional lunches- I was the kid that brought salad, fresh lychees, leftover dinners, and basically whatever I wanted/needed to be eaten in the fridge- and I never got bored of lunches! If you put your mind to it, there are so many foods that can make a great lunch.

Remember to pack a drink- ideally water!

Remember to make packed lunches easy for everyone involved- for you by choosing make ahead or quick prep foods and for them by choosing things they will enjoy and can help with.

Alternative school lunch ideas:

  • Instead of a regular sandwich try using wraps, pitta breads or bagels (use wholegrain when possible).

  • Cold pasta or rice salads can be a nice alternative to bread and are a great way to use up leftovers from dinner. Add in their favourite veggies to make a meal.

  • Homemade lunchables- anyone remember these? It's basically crackers with slices of cheese and ham than you assemble however you like. Use any other foods they would like too- cucumber, tomato, salami etc.

  • Make a snack plate lunch. Provide a dip like hummus, mild salsa or guac and a range of "dippers". Try crackers, veggie sticks (carrot, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes), bread sticks or falafel.

  • For a sweet version, use yogurt and provide sliced fruit or fruit skewers or pancakes as the dippers.

  • Energy balls and muffins (try savoury as well as sweet options) make great filling snacks too!

Please share this blog with anyone who might find it helpful- back to school time is stressful enough without battles over the lunch box!

I have more resources coming soon to help parents avoid meal time melt-downs so keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks :)

Lots of love,

Little O x

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