With the start of another school year this means parents across the UK are beginning to think about simple, easy and convenient lunch box ideas for their children that will keep them healthy and energized. Some parents may struggle with this task and rely on packaged foods, snacks and sugary drinks that they know their kids will eat at school. But I am here to share with you some simple, easy and convenient healthy lunch box ideas that will not only keep your kids energized but will also help them stay motivated, focused and support long term health.
The key to creating healthy lunch boxes is to plan ahead for the week. When you go shopping make sure you have lots of healthy options for your kids to choose from and let them help pick out their favourite fruit and vegetable for the week. When making dinner cook a bit extra that you can use for the next day. Take 30 minutes over the weekend to prepare healthy muffins, your kids will love helping you mix the batter and lick the spoon. Or let them create their own healthy smoothie that they can enjoy as a snack.
Here are some of my favourite lunch box ideas:
1) Rice Cakes with Hummus or Tzatziki served with chopped cucumber, courgettes, carrots, celery and chery tomatoes
2) Roast Chicken (from dinner) served with roasted parsnips and carrots & snap peas
3) Whole grain or lettuce wrap with organic cheese, lettuce, tomato, grated carrots, grated beetroot, avocado and a dijon honey mustard dressing
4) Tuna Nicoise Salad - mixed leaves, hard boiled egg, tuna, green beans, new potatoes, fresh lemon and olive oil (you could add olives and sundried tomatoes as well)
5) Sweet Corn Fritters with a greek salad
6) Vegetable Quiche or Frittata served with fresh fruit salad, natural yogurt and dark chocolate chips
The key to creating a healthy lunch box that will maintain energy levels through the day is to include: At least 2 servings of vegetables (of course you can include more), 1-2 servings of fruit, 1 portion of healthy protein & fat, 1 serving of whole grains (optional) and water
Focus on nutrient rich foods that grow from the ground as much as you can, and try to limit packaged foods with added sugars, chemicals and preservatives. We all know that kids love treats, so why not make them healthier and fun by baking some at home - please see below for a simple banana chocolate chip muffin recipe the whole family will enjoy
Homemade Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (gluten free, egg free)
3 large bananas
160ml of water or coconut milk
65g of coconut oil or rice bran oil
2 tsp of vanilla extract (optional)
50g of maple syrup or 50g of coconut sugar or demerara sugar
140g of gluten free flour (doves farm) or 100g rice flour and 40g of potato flour
30g of ground almonds
50g of ground oats
25g of ground flaxseed
50-90g of dark chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate)
1) Preheat the oven to 190C and line a muffin tray with 12 cups
2) Add the bananas to a bowl and mash until smooth, then add in the remaining wet ingredients.
3) Add all the dry ingredients to the bowl along with the dark chocolate and mix until combined.
4) Divide the mixture between the 12 cups and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and enjoy. These can be frozen and taken out for lunches through the week if they last that long you may have to double the recipe for extras.
Please see my recipe page for the Sweet Corn Fritters
During the summer months we start to see some of our favourite seasonal vegetables and fruits at local farmers markets and on our grocery store shelves. All of these seasonal foods are great additions to any summer salad. When we start moving our thoughts away from a salad made of just lettuce, tomato and cucumbers which can leave us uninspired to salads topped with nuts, seeds, legumes, wholegrains, chia seeds, raw vegetables, olives, sundried tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, grapes and much more we can let our creativity run wild.
The key to keeping things exciting is to swap and change your ingredients throughout the week and keep the focus on variety. Here are some great examples of healthy well balanced salads you can enjoy for lunch or dinner through the week.
1) Strawberry Spinach Salad: 2 cups of organic spinach, 1/2 cup of chopped fresh strawberries, 2 tbsp. of chopped walnuts, 4-6 sprigs of fresh basil, topped with balsamic & honey dressing (mix 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar/white wine vinegar/apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tbsp. of raw honey or maple syrup, sea salt and pepper) Toss Dressing through the salad and enjoy.
Why not add in: 1/4 cup of goats feta, 1/2 cup of chopped chicken breast, 1/2 cup of flaked wild salmon fillet or other fish of choice
2) Homemade Coleslaw: 1/2 small fennel sliced thinly, 1/2 apple chopped, 1/4 red cabbage grated or chopped finely, 1/4 white cabbage/pointed cabbage grated or chopped finely mix together then toss with a yogurt and dijon dressing (1/4-1/2 cup bio live greek yogurt, 2 tbsp. dijon mustard, 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup, 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, sea salt and black pepper - adjust to taste) Serve along side fresh rocket & watercress salad
Why not add in: Chopped red peppers, grated carrots, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
3) Healthy Greek Salad: 1/2 small cucumber chopped, 1/4-1/2 red onion chopped, 1/2 red pepper chopped, 1/4 cup of kalamata olives chopped, 1 chopped tomato, 1/2 cup of chickpeas or haricot beans with an oregano dressing (1 garlic crushed, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper) Toss 2-3 tbsp. of dressing through your salad.
4) Chicken, Mango & Chili Salad: 1/2 chopped mango, 1/2-1 spring onion chopped, 1/2-1 red chili chopped, juice of one lime, 1/2-3/4 cups chopped chicken, small handful of chopped fresh coriander, chopped romaine lettuce or other lettuce of choice, 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil. Toss everything together and enjoy.
5) Orange, Avocado and Wild Rice Salad: 1/2 cup cooked wild rice (great to use from leftovers from dinner), 1/2 avocado chopped, 1/2 large orange chopped into pieces or slices, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 2-3 tbsp. of toasted pecans, 1 tbsp. dried cranberries, 1 tbsp. chopped apricots
Why not add in: Chopped Grilled Chicken, Chopped Grilled Turkey Breast, Flaked Mackerel Fillet, black eyed beans
Happy & Healthy Eating!
Debbie Vanderboom is a Nutritional Advisor, Natural Juice Therapist and foodie who loves using fresh, wholesome food to nourish the body. Educating her clients on the importance of choosing healthy foods on a daily basis is her focus. She provides her clients with recipes, resources and meal plans to help develop healthy eating habits for life.