Don't mention the war. Sorry - I just have. Back to School is near. Emotions are running high: terror at the thought of the cost of getting children back to school, anticipation of what the school year might bring and the sheer joy of getting back into routine again. Just don't let Back to School Food be the problem.
You may have read my previous blog post about the New School Food Plan in the UK and what this means for school lunches going forward, but let's not worry too much about that for now. I'd rather concentrate on what we can do now with the resources we have - pack some yummy, healthy lunches for our children.
I've become a bit of an investigative journalist over the last couple of weeks as I've compared shop bought sauces and treats with the homemade version. In all occasions, the homemade version won hands down. It might take a few minutes more to make the homemade version, but it is worth it everytime - cheaper and healthier. Take this principle and apply it to Back to School - Food and you are onto a winner for your children.
Take, for example, Dairylea Lunchables Ham and Cheese. What seems a handy (healthy) cheese and ham snack, is not the best option out there. Kraft Foods relaunched their lunchbox treats a number of years ago after significant pressure from the public on the health benefits of the meals. They have improved matters, but with 13% of a recommended calorie intake accounting for 35% of the recommended daily salt intake (based on a boy of 7-10), they are far from perfect. And any lunchbox option which includes the words 'cheese food' scares me! Cheese and ham are both high in salt content. A cheap and healthier option would be to prepare your Lunchables: Cheese and Turkey with Ryvita crackers one day, Ham and Humous with Breadsticks the next?
I am also alarmed by some of the sandwich fillers out there. Whether it is Asda's Tuna and Sweetcorn option, Tesco's Cheese and Onion version or Sainsbury's Egg Mayo Filler, they are all laden with mayonnaise and cream. The ingredients are suspiciously missing on the Tesco's Cheese and Onion, the Sainsbury's version is 25% mayonnaise and Asda's sandwich filler is 38% mayonnaise. Shocking amounts. A small scraping of mayo and mustard should be enough for any child.
I do know that shop bought can seem easier and provide ideas for you to try. However, I have put together some easy lunches and snack options for you to try as follows:
Lunch should contain one of the below and at least one piece of fruit or veggie stick, a drink of unsweetened fruit juice or water and a piece of low fat cheese, yoghurt, probiotic drink, or simply a glass of milk.
1. Monday beef and brown bread sandwich
2. Shredded chicken and BBQ sauce wrap
3. Ham, cream cheese and pineapple croissant
4. Tuna mayo and corn roll
5. Veggie pitta pockets with a handful of nuts
During the day children may need a little top up for energy, concentration and to prevent mood swings. Serve with a glass of water, milk or unsweetened fruit juice.
1. Carrot sticks and hummus
2. Fat free yoghurt
3. Pot of roasted soy nuts or almond or pistachio nuts
4. Medley of grapes, cheese and crackers
5. Tortillas and salsa
7. Boiled egg and pitta bread toast
8. Roasted peanut butter sandwiches
9. Apple and orange slices
10. Power treat like oatmeal biscuit or homemade flapjacks
Cheap, easy and healthy. Let me know how you get on.
I have also written a new eBook called Sian's Back to School Plan. It has got lots of tips and tricks on getting prepared during this time.