To my great surprise, packing lunch boxes has become one of my top 10 mum things. It sidles up closely next to reading bedtime stories under twinkle lights and buying cute clothes for them. We’re a month deep into the whole packing-them thing and Lord knows, I’m always on the look out for healthy, easy lunchbox ideas that don’t involve a sandwich.
I’m no expert, and my daughter isn’t particularly fussy, but we do try and limit wheat, bready type things because a) I’m married to a health freak and b) we tend to think that too much of it can cause a lot of problems. If there are alternatives, we try and find them. We don’t like to go overboard on the animal products either, because while we do shop consciously concerning animal products, we could definitely do more to alleviate the really terrible environmental impact factory farming has on our planet. Plus, animal welfare, you know. Leonardo DiCaprio for president is all I’m saying. (Me: Joel. We are going to start eating more vegetarian meals. We might even end up turning into a vegan family. Joel: Staring, places head in hands, etc. Finally says: Stop reading blogs, Rach. Seriously.) But I will have you know that being educated is totally awesome so, yay me. I saw this great cartoon lately where a leader was yelling out “WHO WANTS CHANGE?” while the crowd yelled back, “Me!”. The leader then yelled “WHO WANTS TO CHANGE?”. Silence from the crowd.
Anyways, stepping down from my soapbox….Without further ado, a week of favourite lunchbox ideas (that will get repeated again and again and again and by Year 2 will almost definitely be replaced by vegemite crackers, but still! Starting game strong!)
7 Days of Lunchbox Ideas
Morning Tea: Watermelon and veggie chips
Lunch: Sushi and blueberries (My kids don’t love rice paper rolls just yet but sushi is certainly another favourite. Make at home yourself, or grab from a local sushi place. There are some extra healthy recipe variations like using quinoa instead of rice if you think you can get it past your kids.)
Morning tea: Beetroot dip and brown rice crackers
Lunch: Left-over vegetarian pizza and fruit. (We use a gluten-free flour, sometimes spelt or wholemeal flour. The kids LOVE helping out and top the pizza themselves with their fav ingredients: olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, feta, etc. Perfected the dough crust recently, recipe from here. Also use my own super easy to make tomato sauce base full of stacks of hidden veggies like pumpkin, capsicum, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower – really whatever is kicking around my fridge. Recipe at end of post.)
Morning Tea: Spinach + ricotta triangles plus fruit (fine to eat cold, they’re still great).
Lunch: Grazing plate. This is a particular favourite, and something we mostly eat for lunch when we’re at home anyway. I quickly chop up and whack together some favourite things from the fridge. Protein choice is, say, left-over sausages from the night before, or salmon, or cheese, then I add things like rice crackers, olives, sultanas, berries, beetroot dip and veggies I know she’ll eat: carrots, cucumber, raw green beans, corn, etc.
Morning tea: Fruit skewer, cheese and rice crackers, apple and cinnamon cookie, recipe from here. I made the mashed banana variation with desiccated coconut instead of hazelnuts and used fresh apple instead of dried and they turned out amazing.
Lunch: Left-over spag bol. This is another of Ella’s favourites and she doesn’t mind eating it cold. I health it up by adding before mentioned hidden veggie tomato sauce, diced up veggies like pumpkin, carrot and zucchini plus I chuck in some red lentils to the cooking pot. There are heaps of rice-based or vegetable pastas on the market too so win/win.
Morning tea: Vegemite cruskits + banana + sultanas (I was in a hurry that day!)
Lunch: Wrap + chia seed pudding. Okay, so it’s basically a sandwich, but it’s thin and less dense and you can find some good quality wraps on the market these days. This is Ella’s ‘treat’ day because we’re basically mean parents who deprive our children and eating wheat-filled bread is the best thing ever. Besides, we stuff her wrap full of veggies she wouldn’t usually eat on their own but she does in a wrap because she’s just so stoked to be having bread. Chia seed pudding recipe at end of post. Super easy to make.
Morning tea: Beetroot dip, olives, carrot sticks and rice crackers.
Lunch: Hidden veggie pizza scrolls (recipe from here, feel free to mix the flour up for healthier options) + fruit salad
Morning tea: Fruit salad topped with natural yoghurt + apple and cinnamon breakfast cookie. You can get all cutesy and pipe the yoghurt if you have the time and know your child will get a kick out of it.
Lunch: Salmon and veggie patties + kale chips. We cook these aaaalllllll the time. Mix about a cup of cooked salmon with a couple cups of rice, roasted veggies, an egg, some flour, salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of English mustard. Fry both sides till golden. Kale chips: crank your oven super high, tear off kale leaves, cover with salt and a dash of oil and cook till crunchy, about 5 minutes or so.
Other lunchbox ideas:
- Mini quiches (There is a child with an egg allergy at Ella’s kindy so can’t include these in lunch boxes, but if you can, they are a good main meal that doesn’t involve a sandwich)
- Boiled eggs – good protein snacks that keep little bellies full.
- Vegetarian sausage rolls (recipe from here). I haven’t made them yet, but hanging out to try them.
- Muesli power bar (a good morning tea snack – recipe from here).
- Pancakes, cold. (Joel makes paleo pancakes all the time – coconut flour, smashed banana and eggs – there are some super healthy recipe variations out there.)
- Spelt + honey banana bread (recipe from here.)
- Utilise left overs – cook extra each night at dinner and pack whatever was on the menu for your child’s lunch.
- Pack the lunch boxes with your child, or even better, include your child in the cooking/baking process so she is an active participant and more likely to make healthy food choices (and eat it!).
- Use cute bento lunchbox decorations (stacks on eBay) to make the lunch exciting instead of it being exciting because of unhealthy treats.
Awesome websites for stacks of recipe inspiration:
Veggie Mama (vegetarian)
Thug Kitchen (vegan) – language warning on this one but awesome recipes and a sassy attitude I like.
Hidden veggie pasta sauce/pizza sauce:
Simmer away until veggies are super soft, add whatever seasoning you like (I usually just add salt and maybe a bit of honey) then puree it all up, pop in a jar and have in the fridge ready to veggie the freak out of your unaware kids.
Chia Seed Puddings:
- Mix together 1 cup of coconut water, 1/2 cup coconut milk or cream, 50g chia seeds, and 3 tablespoons of honey.
- Whizz about half a cup of frozen berries in the food processor with a touch of honey if you’d like, then stir it into the chia seed mix. Add extra berries on top if you want to.
- Transer to small glasses or containers and pop in fridge for at least 2 hours. Easy!
Happy lunch boxing!