PARENTS

Parents Share Healthy Packed Lunch Ideas For Kids

'Sadly I’ve not quite mastered the bento box. Maybe by the time they are 40.'

15/07/2016 00:01 | Updated 15 July 2016
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Making packed lunches week in, week out can be tough for any parent.

It can be time-consuming, costly and difficult to keep your kids excited about them.

To help inspire your food choices, we spoke to eight parents and bloggers about their realistic packed lunch choices, as well as what works for them and their kids when it comes to eating well.

 

1. Homemade Savoury Muffins & Wraps

Emily Leary
Savoury muffins are easy to make and can be frozen individually.

Emily Leary, 33, blogs at A Mummy Too. She has two children, JD, eight, and Jay, four,.

What’s your go-to packed lunch idea?

Tortilla wraps are a real favourite because they’re so easy to put together and you can pack in protein (meat or tempeh, for example), greens (spinach or tenderstem broccoli) and lots of grated or spiralised raw veg for crunch. 

What snacks do you include? 

The pupils at our school are encouraged to bring fruit as a mid-afternoon snack, so there’s always an apple or banana in their bag. 

If my kids are going through a hungry phase, savoury muffins are great. For example, cheesy red pepper and broccoli muffins or mini quiches. They’re easy to make and can be frozen individually, so you can whip up a huge batch and then pop one in their lunch box each morning to defrost in time for lunch. 

What works for you and what doesn’t?

Kids get bored, so I think variety is key. It’s easy to fall into a routine but if you use up salad and leftovers from the fridge every day, making the most of little bits of this and that, then it never gets boring.

How long does it take you to prepare your packed lunch?

I don’t think it should take more than a matter of minutes! Making up freezer batches of savoury muffins or tomato pasta salad can be a real time saver – freeze in individual portions so that there’s no faff in the morning.

Wraps and rolls only take seconds to fill.

How much do packed lunches cost on a weekly basis?

Around a £5 a week (or £1 per day) per child. Possibly less and it’s possible to cut down costs even further if you have several children as you can buy and cook in bulk to save money.

 

 2. Mini Bagels, Yoghurts & ‘Dessert Fruits’

Mariandi Griffiths

Mariandi and Rob Griffiths blog at Everything The Kid. They have two children, David, 3, and Ethan, 1.

What’s your go-to packed lunch idea?

Our packed lunches typically follow the mantra, “a little of a lot”. I think this helps to keep them excited and interested in their food.

They do love to try new things. We’re part of Hello Fresh (a food delivery service) and today we got some gooseberries which David instantly wanted to try.

When I pack a lunch, it’s usually always snacky bits with the main filler being a sandwich, mini bagel, or small wrap.

What snacks do you include? 

The snacks usually include a mini Babybel, plum or cherry tomatoes, cucumber, yogurt, and some sort of “dessert” fruit like a satsuma, banana, or grapes cut length-ways.

Sometimes I’ll get one of the many dinosaur-shaped cookies cutter we have and make a cheese and tomato ketchup dinosaur sandwich, then when David pretends he’s a dinosaur and bites into it, the ketchup oozes out.

What works for you and what doesn’t?

Strangely, crisps don’t seem to work out very well in his packed lunch, unless they are cheese puffs, so I don’t tend to bother putting those in.

A variety of fruit seems to work best, I don’t think I’ve had a lunch box back with fruit left over. Maybe that’s why he has so much energy.

How long does it take you to prepare a packed lunch?

It usually takes me 10-15 minutes to prepare, provided my ankle isn’t been tugged at by one of the boys, or having to sort out why one of them is crying.

How much do packed lunches cost on a weekly basis? 

Shopping at Lidl/Aldi allows us to buy a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables at a fairly cheap price, so I think it costs somewhere around £2-3 per week, with a £2 per month donation to David’s school for milk and snacks.

However he only goes twice a week at the moment, so I expect it will go up to £3 or £4 when he starts to go more in September.

We like to freeze speciality breads like wraps and bagels so we always have them on hand when we decide to make his lunch a bit different.

 

 3. Sarnies With Mix ‘n’ Match Fruit & Veg Pots

Lisa Lumley

Lisa Lumley, 34, blogs on Lumdeedums and Channel Mum. She has two children, George, 10, and Alice, 9.

What’s your go-to packed lunch idea?

Generally we try and aim for a balanced diet. In summer this is based around the humble sandwich and in winter we are more adventurous and have soup in Thermos containers. 

What snacks do you include? 

We tend to do veg sticks, fruit, (we have lots of little pots and tubs we use so there can be a real mix) crisps and maybe a yoghurt.

What works for you and what doesn’t?

Sadly I’ve not quite mastered the bento box where food depicts a scene like a picture or a cute bear. Maybe by the time they are 40... 

How long does it take you to prepare your packed lunch?

It doesn’t take hubby or me too long to make them to be honest. Soup will be made and stored in batches and defrosted then decanted after cooking.

Sandwiches are made the night before or in the morning.

It takes about half an hour in total.

How much do packed lunches cost on a weekly basis?

It probably costs around £30 with all three of them (husband included) and the biggest cost is fruit.  

 

4. Homemade Pizza Muffins & Salad Pitta Pockets

Rachel Hirst

Rachel Hirst, 38, blogs at U Me And The Kids. She has two children, Jake, 13, and Lewis, 18.

What’s your go-to packed lunch idea?

We like to have bagels with homemade egg mayonnaise and cress, homemade pizza muffins, tuna wraps and chicken salad pitta pockets.  

What snacks do you include?

Dried fruit or a packet of crisps.

How long does it take you to prepare a packed lunch?

It takes a little while as I make everything from scratch. It not only tastes better, but it is healthier and cheaper too.

I like to make bulk fillings so I am not doing it everyday.

How much do packed lunches cost on a weekly basis?

It costs me around £2 per day for each packed lunch which is cheaper than anything they would buy at school and college.

 

5. A ‘Snacky’ Tapas-Style Lunch

Jessica Atherton

Jessica Atherton, 32, blogs on 2.2 Children And A Dog and Channel Mum. She has two children, Joshua, 8, and Sophie, 4. 

What’s your go-to packed lunch idea?

It’s usually a wrap, sandwich or even a snacky lunch on some days.

What snacks do you include?

Fruit, yoghurt and I always like to include a little treat such as a small cake, a few biscuits or a packet of crisps.  

What works for you and what doesn’t?

I always like to add in a joke or a little note everyday.

I also find packed lunches make it easier to know what your child actually eats and what they don’t. 

How long does it take you to prepare packed lunch?

Normally around 10 minutes.

How much do packed lunches cost you to make on a weekly basis?

I’d like to say roughly around the £4 or £5 mark, if that.

SEE ALSO:

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6. The Modern Mum’s Bento Box

Elizabeth Atia

Elizabeth Atia, 39, blogs at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary. She has three children, Ronan, 16, Amelie, 9, and Holden, 7.

What’s your go-to packed lunch idea?

In all honesty, a peanut butter and jam sandwich on homemade bread.

It’s my kids’ favourite and since no one at their school has any food allergies it’s okay. 

What snacks do you include?

Snacks tend to be fresh or dried fruit, homemade cookies or a granola bar.

What works for you and what doesn’t? 

Packing lunches the night before doesn’t work for me. I am just too tired to be thinking of such things after a long day, so I get up early and make their lunches in the morning.

How long does it take you to prepare a packed lunch?

It only takes about five minutes and I’m making three lunches.

Sometimes, if I am feeling like super mum, I’ll make a bento lunch for them - cutting cheese and vegetables into shapes or pressing boiled eggs into moulds while hot to make an animal shape.

How much do packed lunches cost on a weekly basis?

I’ve never really totalled up the amount their lunches cost, but I know it’ll be less than school dinners as I often include leftovers from the night before like egg noodles tossed in sesame oil and grated carrot, or pasta salad.

I reckon it’s less than £15 per week for the three of them.

 

7. A Mini Picnic With Wraps & Pittas

Kate Stinchcombe-Gillies

Kate Stinchcombe-Gillies is the founder of Coconut PR. She has two children, Hunter, 3, and Rafe, 1.

What’s your go-to packed lunch idea? 

I’m quite traditional when it comes to packed lunches, so it’s typically a sandwich, but I mix it with wraps and filled pittas.

The fillings don’t vary all that much: ham, cheese, cheese and ham, chicken/turkey. 

What snacks do you include?

I tend to think of everything else as a mini picnic, which might occasionally have a treat (chocolate biscuit) in it. 

Accompaniments include yoghurt, fruit (satsuma, strawberries, blueberries, grapes), either a biscuit or Goodies oat bar and cherry tomatoes, which my oldest eats like sweets. I jazz these up by buying heritage tomatoes when I can - they range from red to orange, yellow and green.

Sometimes I might chuck in hummus and breadsticks instead of crisps (as they won’t eat carrot sticks!) and occasionally some dried fruit (mango is loved, but it’s flipping expensive).

Crisps vary from Pom Bears to Hula Hoops.

What works for you and what doesn’t?

Keeping it simple and using the picnic style to add in something new for them to try every now and then.

How long does it take you to prepare packed lunch?

Five minutes tops - although it feels longer if I try to do it in the morning with the boys hanging off my legs.

How much do packed lunches cost you to make on a weekly basis?

I would guess at £10-£12. 

 
 

8. Build-Your-Own-Lunch Kits

Cerys Parker

Cerys Parker, 38, blogs at Rainy Day Mum. She has two children aged seven and five.

What’s your go-to packed lunch idea?

I am the mum of two fussy eaters so the go-to packed lunch for us varies between a simple sandwich, yoghurt, piece of fruit and a flapjack bar to a ‘build your own lunch’ which includes salad, wrap or pitta bread.

What snacks do you include? 

I don’t tend to include any crisps, cookies or cake - just a flapjack or some form of healthy alternative.

When they get home from school they have an unhealthy snack usually from something that I’ve been experimenting on that week, like a new cake or cookie recipe for the blog.

What works for you and what doesn’t?

For me and them, the most important thing is getting food into them at lunch time as when they are up at the crack of dawn they really need it to last them through the afternoon at school.

I go for food that I know they will eat that is healthy and provides a balanced meal for them. 

How long does it take you to prepare a packed lunch?

Packed lunch prep for me is quick. I don’t have a lot of time between getting back from walking the dog, making breakfast for the family and getting everyone to work and school, so I either cheat and do them in the night before and put them in the fridge, or it’s about 10 minutes in total in the morning for both kids, husband and myself. 

How much do packed lunches cost on a weekly basis?

For a week of packed lunches, it’s under £10 which is cheaper than school dinners for a week when I guarantee that there is only one day a week that the kids will actually eat the meal. 

 

This summer The Huffington Post UK is spearheading an initiative helping families thrive, with a focus on parent wellbeing, the challenges facing stay-at-home and working parents, friendships and navigating the landscape of modern parenting beyond the 2.4. To kickstart the campaign, Jamie Oliver will be guest editor on 15 July 2016, bringing a focus on feeding healthy families.

We’ll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #ThrivingFamilies and we’d like you to do the same. If you’d like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com to get involved. Jamie’s new cookbook Super Food Family Classics, published by Penguin, is on sale at £26.

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