Packed lunches or hot school dinners?
We are a couple of weeks into the new term now and well into the routine of making packed lunches. I’ve always given my children the choice and whilst they’ve had the occasional hot dinner at school, they usually opt for a packed lunch.
With episodes of fussy eating over the years, a packed lunch overall is probably the easiest option, I can’t expect teachers to remember what my children have eaten and how much they’ve eaten – that would be very annoying for them everyday. With a packed lunch it’s much more straightforward to see what they’ve eaten, although not always the easier option.
Preparation and inspiration
Obviously it’s another thing to get done to prepare for each school day, but I find once we are back in a routine it’s just one of those automatic things I do each day.
None of my children are big fans of sandwiches, so lunches to tend to have to be a bit more creative than that. Wraps and crackers seem to go down the best in general, but I do try to vary things to keep lunches interesting. I want them to be excited when they open their lunchboxes, not groan about what mummy has packed AGAIN!
If you are looking for lunchbox inspiration it can be a good idea to try different supermarkets. Sometimes just varying the different options can be enough to entice a reluctant lunch eater.
What should lunchboxes include?
If you are new to the making of packed lunches it might be wise to check with your child’s school as to whether there are any specific requirements or items that are not allowed. In general though, lunchboxes should:
- Be based on starchy carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, rice and pasta – using wholegrain where possible
- Include fresh fruit and vegetables/salad
- Include a source of protein such as beans and pulses, eggs, fish, meat, cheese (or dairy alternative)
- Include a side dish such as a low-fat and lower-sugar yoghurt (or dairy alternative), tea cake, fruit bread, plain rice/corn cakes, homemade plain popcorn, sugar-free jelly
- Include a drink such as water, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, sugar-free or no-added-sugar drinks – Aldi recently removed all added sugar from its entire range of own brand children’s soft drinks. This provides parents with a whole host of healthier options to add to the lunchbox each school day!
My approach is usually to give a little bit of lots of different things. The portion lunchboxes like the ones from Sistema are great for this. So I will often put strawberries in one pouch, cucumber in another, a drink in another, and so on.
Aldi have some great products for school lunches. Their tortilla wraps are really good and keep for ages. Some wraps dry out quite quickly but these ones stay supple and fresh for days. You can fill them with whatever your children enjoy. A lot of the time I’m asked for wraps filled only with cucumber, but it ticks a couple of boxes so I don’t have an issue with that.
Crackers can be given dry, with butter or margarine, or even a cheese spread – whatever you think your children with enjoy the most.
Fruit is a great choice, soft fruits I tend to put in a small plastic container so they survive until lunchtime, apples normally go down well, and if they don’t eat them at lunchtime, they snack on them on the way home.
Raw fruit bars are great for energy and count as one of their five-a-day. There is no mess with them and if they don’t get eaten one day they can be kept for another day as they are quite robust.
All my children love yoghurts and fromage frais, so little pouches of these slot into a lunch box nicely. You can also freeze things like this and pop them in a lunchbox to use as a cool pack. By lunchtime they will be defrosted and ready to eat.
How do you approach school lunchboxes?