Being a mum of two and this year a first-time school mum, lunch boxes 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 lunch box ideas.
Remember These Important Tips
Some important tips before we get started:
•Food should be fun
•Keep it simple
•Stress Less – Find out what works best for you as to when packing a lunch box. Some parents and it easier to pack a lunch box the night before, whilst others prefer to make it early morning. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make the perfect lunch box, be inspired by whole food and simple ingredients.
What to Include in a Healthy Lunch Box?
I encourage a lunch box 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 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 a 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 lunch box, much like a classic sandwich would. If you are choosing a sandwich as your main lunch box 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.
•Frittata or egg and veggie muffins
•Fritters (you can make these with egg and veggies or for an egg free option use chick- pea our + 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 asks to take warm or cool food to school.
•Homemade chicken nuggets using chicken mince, finely grated veggies and rolled in a nut free coating (recipe for these is in my Real Food Recipes eBook along with sugar free tomato sauce to accompany).
•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 whole 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 to encourage them to eat them.
•Theme your fruit and vegetables for a fun approach, such a colour theme each day.
•Draw funny faces on whole bananas.
Kids love snacks, 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 lunch boxes. Such a hummus, guacamole or their favourite. Serve with crackers or veggie sticks. WholeLife has a great range of organic and vegan dips.
•Yoghurt with mixed berries. Choose a yogurt with no added sugar. We use unsweetened coconut yoghurt.
•Pikelets are a great fun food ideal for little hands and when made with wholesome ingredients they can be a healthy option too. I make ours from buckwheat our and top with homemade chia seed jam or use this recipe here.
•Mini muffins. Use whole fruit to sweeten vs adding re ned sugar. We love making these mini coconut banana muffins.
•Homemade banana bread. Use overripe bananas to sweeten. This recipe for lunchbox friendly banana bread with no added sugar is also freezer friendly.
•Roasted vegetables or their favourite veggies/ salad ingredients.
•Leftover sausages or meatballs. We use preservative free.
•Serve finger food size wholefood snacks in patty cases to keep together and give a fun appeal such a patty cases filled with buckini or granola clusters.
•Homemade muesli bars. We make these nut free muesli bars.
•Chia seed pudding
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 lunch boxes from cookies, muffins, slices etc using wholesome and natural ingredients.
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 which 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. Recipe for the homemade healthy chocolate crackles is in our Real Food Recipes ebook.
Quick & Convenient
As a mum I get that convenience helps! Having some grab-and-go option in the pantry can take off a lot of pressure and stress. The key is to make them count with nutritional value. So here are some of my favourite lunch box friendly healthy snack ideas you can find at WholeLife.
Snack bars – There are lots of healthy whole food 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 you school is nut free, check the ingredient 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. These can be great to keep in your pantry for quick and easy snacks.
Don’t forget the fridge section of your WholeLife – Here you can and 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 wholefood ideas we can add to the list to help other parents too! For more easy & healthy back to school lunch box ideas join us in our Facebook Community.
This blog post was proudly sponsored by our friends at WholeLife.