Making packed lunches is the bane of many parents’ lives, and usually something you remember to do around 10pm the night before, when you really just want to get in bed with your book.
If you want to shake things up in the new school year, we’ve spoken to registered nutritionists and dieticians to give you a week of packed lunch ideas your kids will love - and they’re not all sandwiches.
Let’s be honest, no parent is going to have time to make all of these each day of the week but if anything, it’ll give you a few more ideas if you want to be a bit more adventurous at the beginning of term.
“Generally I would recommend using the eatwell guide as a reference point for putting a packed lunch together,” advises Anna Groom, BDA spokesperson and paediatric specialist dietitian. “Therefore it should include foods from each main nutrient group, whole grain carbohydrates, protein, dairy, and fruit and vegetables.”
Groom says some children may love the more unique foods whilst others may not be tempted. “I often find if children help make packed lunches they are more inclined to eat them,” she adds. “Including homemade treats are also great options.”
What? Couscous rainbow salad
Why? Charlotte Stirling-Reed, registered nutritionist and owner of SR Nutrition says: “It can be eaten cold, takes just a few minutes to prepare and doesn’t need any cooking. It’s also really varied and you can change the ingredients about depending on what you have left over in the fridge.”
Tips on preparing: “Add a wide variety of veggies (and some fruits) to it including pomegranate seeds, sultanas, apple pieces, carrot, chopped lettuce, red pepper and tomatoes. Don’t forget about protein if you haven’t got any other protein source in the lunchbox and include some beans, chicken pieces or a dollop of hummus as a side. Choose a good lunchbox with separate compartments and send your little one to school with a frozen bottle of water to help keep it cool.”
What? Sandwich packed lunch
Why? Groom says: “A packed lunch can include foods from each main nutrient group, whole grain carbohydrates, protein, dairy, and fruit and vegetables. Sandwich fillings can be lean protein such as ham, tuna, egg, cheese, cream cheese. Remember cheese and ham are high in salt therefore shouldn’t be an everyday inclusion. Cold roast meat is a great option.”
Tips on preparing: “Choose whole grain bread, wholemeal pitta, wholemeal or seeded bagel, thins or seeded wraps. Try and ensure sandwiches are filled with salad items such as lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber. Include fruit - either mixed berries in a small pot or easily eaten fruit such as an apple pre-sliced (wrap tightly in foil as this stops them browning). Some fruit bars are healthy options - always read the label as some are full of refined sugar.”
What? Pasta salad
Why? Clare Thornton-Wood, a qualified dietitian registered with the British Dietetics Association says: “This can be a packed lunch with three of your child’s five a day, is a good source of fibre from edamame beans and calcium from yoghurt.”
Tips on preparing: “Make with roasted chicken and roast vegetables with olive oil and basil dressing or use pesto thinned with oil. You can cook extra chicken, vegetables or other meats at dinner the night before to add. I would also give them a pot of edamame beans, a yoghurt and fruit.”
What? Homemade noodle pot
Why? Thornton-Wood says this is an easy lunch that can be prepared the night before and is a good source of calcium and fibre, getting two to three of your five a day. She recommends having this alongside a yoghurt and a piece of fruit.
Tips on preparing: “Add half a nest of rice noodles, peas, sweet corn, finely sliced mushrooms, green beans, tofu cubes miso or soy sauce to taste. Put all into a wide top flask the night before in the morning add boiling water and will keep warm until lunch.”
What? Pizza pinwheels
Why? Registered dietician Priya Tew suggests making pizza pinwheels as a fun Friday lunch - which is basically a homemade pizza. “These freeze well and most children like pizza so they are an appealing lunch with vegetables in there. Using wholemeal flour in the dough will make it higher in fibre and the cheese adds protein.”
Tips on preparing: “Using homemade pizza dough, roll it out and spread a layer of tomato sauce, mushrooms, peppers and mozzarella. Roll up into a sausage and cut into slices. Bake in the oven.”