Casey-Lee from Live Love Nourish is a nutritionist and mother of two. We chatted with her about getting some ideas for the daily struggle of healthy kid’s lunchboxes. With back to school just around the corner; Casey helped us put together the ultimate, easy and healthy lunchbox.
Being a mum of two and this year a first-time school mum, lunchboxes are now very much a part of our everyday. As a mum and as a nutritionist who is passionate about real food for kids, I understand the importance of easy & healthy back to school lunchbox ideas.
Some important tips before we get started:
•Food should be fun
•Keep it simple
•Stress Less – Find out what works best for you when packing a lunchbox. Some
parents find it easier to pack a lunchbox the night before, whilst others prefer to make it early morning.
What to Include in a Healthy Lunch Box?
I encourage a lunchbox that is both simple and whole-food inspired. It’s important to include a variety of food in your little one’s diet to help you build a balanced lunch box that includes the key nutrients that their growing bodies need. Key nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, vitamins and minerals (such as calcium and iron) are all necessary for a nutritionally balanced diet. The key is to look over the course of the day to ensure they are getting the variety of nutrients rather than putting too much pressure on just one meal.
Savoury Main Items
This is what will form the main item in your lunchbox, much like a classic sandwich would. If you are choosing a sandwich as your main lunchbox item, focus on filling them with nutrient dense and healthy ingredients. Ideally, you want to focus more on what they are getting from the filling of the sandwich rather than the bread itself.
•Fritters (you can make these with egg and veggies or for an egg free option use chickpea flour + water in place of eggs)
•Homemade sushi (you can make this with quinoa too. If using quinoa mash a small amount of hummus or avocado into the quinoa so it sticks together).
•Spaghetti bolognese muffins (make these by whisking leftover spaghetti bolognese with 1-2 eggs and bake in muffin trays). You can also do this to make a fried rice slice, mix fried rice with whisked egg and bake in a slice tray for a lunchbox friendly way to serve fried rice).
•Pasta salad. Pulse pasta (made from chickpeas, legumes or pulses are a high protein option). Mix with 1-2 of their favourite pasta ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, chicken or mushrooms.
•Don’t forget leftovers. A lot of children love their dinner leftovers for lunch. Especially if it is a familiar, family favourite dish. You can get some great kid friendly, lunch flasks to take warm or cool food to school.
•Homemade chicken nuggets using chicken mince, finely grated veggies and rolled in a nut free coating
•Pita pockets (these are great for a “spill proof” alternative to sandwiches. You can also pack a lot of nutritious ingredients in to them also.
•Rice paper rolls
Whole Fruit and Vegetables
Make sure your lunchbox includes some fresh fruit and vegetables. These are easy, time saving, affordable and healthy. If your little one doesn’t like fruit or vegetables get creative and try different ways of serving it and keep offering.
•Cut fruit into fun shapes using a cookie cutter.
•Name veggie sticks in a fun way. Such as wizard swards for asparagus spears!
•Lightly steam and cool some vegetable sticks. Some kids don’t like raw veggies but will eat softened carrot sticks or softened beans for example.
•Get kids to pick their favourite fruits or get them involved in chopping and preparing. This will encourage them to eat them, I promise!
•Theme your fruit and vegetables for a fun approach, such as a colour theme each day.
•Draw funny faces on whole bananas.
Kids love snacks, well at least mine do! Balance your lunchbox well and choose snacks that are nutrient dense and provide nutritional value. Of course, fun snacks can be included, the main focus though is to fill their tummies first with whole food options. Some healthy whole food snack ideas include:
• Dips These are a fun item in kid’s lunchboxes. Dips such as hummus or guacamole are popular with children. Serve with crackers or veggie sticks. WholeLife has a great range of organic & vegan dips.
•Yoghurt with mixed berries. Choose a yogurt with no added sugar. We use unsweetened coconut yoghurt.
•Pikelets are a great, fun food idea for little hands and when made with wholesome ingredients they can be a healthy option too. I make ours from buckwheat flour and top with homemade chia seed jam.
•Mini muffins Use whole fruit to sweeten rather than adding refined sugar. We love making these mini coconut banana muffins.
•Homemade banana bread Use over-ripe bananas to sweeten.
•Roasted vegetables or their favourite veggies/salad ingredients.
Treats are an important part of having fun with food and building a positive relationship with food. With a couple of simple twists on your favourite recipes you can also add some bonus nutrition to fun treat food.
Homemade baking is a great example. There are so many healthy recipes you can make for kid’s lunchboxes from cookies, muffins, slices etc.
When you’re including treats in your lunchbox the key is to make it a part of the lunchbox but not the main focus. Ideally include ingredients that add nutritional value, this is why I love home cooking. For example, I make homemade chocolate crackles but to add value I mix in sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and goji berries.
Quick & Convenient
As a mum I get that convenience helps! Having some grab-and-go options in the pantry can take off a lot of pressure and stress. The key is to make them count with nutritional value. Here are some of my favourite lunchbox friendly, healthy snack ideas you can find at WholeLife.
Snack bars – There are lots of healthy wholefood bars available, just be mindful of a few key things to choose a healthier one. Look for no added refined sugars and preservatives.
Bliss balls – Typically bliss balls are made with nuts, seeds, coconut and dates or rice malt syrup. Look for ones without added preservative and if your school is nut free, check the ingredients label. You can also make these at home!
Roasted chickpeas or faba beans – These are a tasty snack providing a source of protein and fibre.
Toasted seaweed – You can get these in mini snack packs at WholeLife!
Seed crackers – These are a nutrient dense snack made from mostly seeds and water. The seeds provide a source of protein, good fats and fibre.
Ready-to-make mixes – There are a lot of great brands with ready-to-bake mixes such as banana bread, muffins, pancakes and crackers which WholeLife have a great range of.
Don’t forget the fridge section of your WholeLife – Here you can find lots of great snacks such as yoghurts, chia seed puddings, pre-made patties, falafels and more.
I hope these tips help! Comment below if you have any ideas we can add to the list to help other parents too!