The new school term is nearly upon us and ohhhhhhhhh it’s time for the daily packed lunch routine! To help ease our suffering, we’ve asked Lizzi, aka NutriCoach Mumma for some advice. Here are her 6 easy ways to make packed lunches fun AND save time!!
As a parent, chef and Nutritionist I LOVE food, especially when I can make it functional and fun!
I’ve used my Nutritional Knowledge, based on real science, to put together some tasty lunch box ideas for your family, to fuel them for their school day making sure that they are prepared for a busy day of learning, while keeping your prep time down.
Lunchbox tip one: Keep them balanced
The nutritional components to aim for in a lunch box are:
Protein: Helps maintain and build muscle mass, which will be perfect for the physical and brain activity your children will be doing.
Carbohydrates: Your children will need food that will sustain them for the duration of the school day and also provide them with a needed pick-me-up. In nutritional terms that’s mixing unrefined and refined carbohydrates with good fats, proteins and fibre to help them feel fuller for longer.
Fats: Omega 3 has been scientifically proven to help enhance learning through helping the brain function more effectively, making learning easier.
Fibre: Fibre will help keep your child fuller for longer and keeps things moving in the digestive tract, adding bulk to stools preventing constipation.
You don’t have to be a wiz in the kitchen to turn your nutritional lunchboxes into a reality, as I’ve developed a few adaptable ideas to make sure your family will be fully fuelled! A super easy way to do this is to put together grazing / picky-lunch boxes.
This can be quickly put together with a mismatch of anything you have in, some of the things I put in mine include: crackers, bread sticks, rice cakes, chunks of cheese, cucumber, carrot sticks, celery, grapes, olives… basically a portable cheese board that you can fit in a lunchbox! With the crackers, bread sticks and rice cakes wholemeal and wholegrain options contain unrefined carbs, releasing energy slowly as and when your kid’s body needs it during their day, keeping them fuller for longer.
The fruits and salad items are packed with fibre which will keep them full and the sugars in them are great for a pick-me-up. They’re also packed with vitamins A, D C & E which help the body fight off colds and maintain healthy teeth, bones and eye health.
Lunchbox tip 2: Don’t break the rules!
Most schools have lunchbox guidelines and rules so make sure you check those. The lunchbox rules I’ve seen are mostly focused on avoiding packaging and foods with refined sugars that are likely to spike blood sugar levels, which can lead to behavioural mood-swings . Fruit (fresh or dried) is a really versatile non refined option which will provide a pick-me-up for your schoolers.
Here are some more quick and easy ideas:
Tinned or frozen fruit; make a great alternative if you haven’t got fresh fruit in / available. Frozen fruit usually thaws out in a Tupperware after around 30mins – 1 hour depending on how hot it is!
Dried fruit box; can literally be a little Tupperware of raisins or the little boxes. Any dried fruits can be used: apricots, cranberries, mangoes, whatever you have in your cupboard!
Fruit and nutsfor the bigger kids (if nuts are allowed in the school); again literally any dried fruit and nuts you like and have in the cupboards, unsalted and sugared options like the mixed nut bags you can get in most supermarkets in the baking or dried food aisles are great.
Fruits are packed with fibre which will keep you full, packed with fibre which will keep them full, the sugars in them are great for a pick-me-up. They’re packed with vitamins A, D C & E which help the body fight off colds and maintain healthy teeth, bones and eye health.
Dried fruits contain fruit sugars which are released slower than refined white sugar.
Nuts are high in useful fats that help combat bad cholesterol while fueling the body
Lunchbox tip 3: Keep it simple (and stress-free)
My top tip is to always have a packet of wraps in your cupboard or freezer (they can last frozen for around 4months and thaw out singularly on a plate super-fast)! Wraps feel more fun and versatile compared to sandwiches and you can wrap and cut them however suits your family, putting each one easily into a Tupperware, ready to whip out when hunger strikes.
Wholemeal, 50/50 and seeded wraps contain unrefined carbs, releasing energy slowly as & when the body needs it throughoutthe day, keeping everyone fuller for longer.
There’s also loads of quick options to pack the protein into these, I have a handy Wrap filling option table on my site here.
Lunchbox tip 4:Use leftovers
You can be quite intentional about this by optimising your time and cooking extra portions when you’re making dinner e.g. cook double portions at dinner or add a bit of extra pasta to put together a pasta salad for the lunchboxes.
Non-intentional works well too, if you happen to have leftovers, you can use parts to form the lunchbox e.g. cooked leftover meats, chickpeas etc, make great sandwich/wrap fillings. Even things like cold potatoes work well too.
This pizza recipe makes a super fun activity that you can do together and often a big hit with the whole family as they can be customised to each person’s tastes! They are easy too, no rising time and no rolling pins needed! Try making these on a weekend, there’s an easy topping nutritional table with the recipe.
Lunchbox tip 5: Prepare your lunchbox options whilst you’re cooking dinner
If cooking in a batch isn’t for you but you want to optimise time in the kitchen, prepare your lunch box the evening before, while you are cooking dinner. You already have all your essentials out (like chopping board and knife) and you can save on washing up time!
Lunchbox tip 6: Make enough for multiple days
Recipes like my cous cous salad will take up a maximum of 15 minutes so could be quick prep for a Sunday evening to make your week ahead easier. Cous cous literally takes minutes to cook, so using it in a hearty, filling salad could be a great lunchbox edition.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this lunchbox blog post and that it will help you discover new practical food ideas while learning about nutrition. I’d love to see pictures of any of the lunchbox creations you try, please tag me @nutricoachmumma.
I also produce personalised plans and provide online support for different diets/ allergies e.g. vegan, nut-free via virtual appointment. As well as downloadable weaning guides and plans. I work with a wide variety of clients, including families to work through eating behaviours, please see my newly launched website for details and to book in with me and get your free into form emailed to you. You can also find my cooking videos on Instagram.