Does the thought of packing lunchboxes on a Sunday night conjure up cartoon bluebirds for you? No? Can you barely suppress your urge to express your joy through song? Still no? More like an audible groan and the sudden need to self-medicate with whatever sugar is at hand? I hear you. Put down the biscuits and come with me – help is at hand.
If you feel like you’re in a lunch rut, a great first step is to search Instagram or Pinterest for some fresh inspiration. These sites are overflowing with tips – from quick and simple lunches packed in record time, to guides on producing ornate, origami-esque edible art for lunchboxes. Depending on how often you want to pack lunches, consider options that can be prepared ahead in batches to save the Sunday night syndrome reoccurring every night during the week.
In simple terms, vegetables are the best food we can eat. Nutritionally dense and low in calories, go to town with as many veggies as your child will willingly eat. Batons of crunchy celery, cucumber, carrot, capsicum make easy, healthy finger foods. Snow peas or corn on the cob are less common but usually popular alternative options. Multigrain rolls, sandwiches and wraps are generally a more nutritious option than their white bread counterparts, and can be filled with avocado or roasted veggies instead of the usual suspects. If you’re keen to avoid your child filling up on bread, most sandwich fillings do well rolled up in crunchy lettuce leaves instead. Meatballs, sausages, chicken strips, cubes of cheese or a peeled, boiled egg all make great cutlery-free protein sources.
Eat the rainbow (literally)
Have you ever noticed that a child standing in the kitchen watching you prepare a meal will eat their own bodyweight in raw, chopped vegetables; but faced with a plate of the same vegetables for dinner, will declare them to be their mortal enemy?
There are two aspects to steering this phenomenon in your favour. Firstly, involve your kids in the lunch decisions, and preparation if possible. There’s a far greater chance they’ll eat a healthy lunch that they feel they have been involved in selecting or preparing. Secondly, consider ways to make servings bite sized and appealing. For example, juicy cherry or grape tomatoes, carrot, yellow capsicum and cucumber strips and a handful of blueberries can be arranged in colour-blocked groups in a rectangular container to make an appetising and nutritionally-rich rainbow.
Kids in the kitchen
The beauty of many make-ahead healthy options is that they provide an opportunity for kids to help in the kitchen – getting their hands into the ingredients, learning about cooking, maths and healthy food choices.
Dips and homemade muesli or granola bars are great examples of healthy, no-bake lunchbox options that can be made ahead and customised to suit individual tastes. Kids may also enjoy selecting ingredients to mix up and measure out into individual portions of their own custom batch of trail mix.
Lunchboxes as gift boxes
Have a big clean-out and get rid of your cracked and cloudy old plastic containers, lids that fit nothing and any other ghosts of Tupperware past.
Restock with visually appealing, high quality lunchboxes that make lunch preparation simpler and less of a game of matching pairs for you; and more fun for your kids to unpack and dig into when lunch time arrives. Consider buying lunch boxes with internal partitions or a smaller internal container to keep packaging as streamlined and wrap-free as possible.
We know the feeling of anticipation and enjoyment that comes from unwrapping something that’s been beautifully gift-boxed. The same factors are at work when a child pulls out a new lunchbox with thoughtfully packed contents. Depending on the age of your child, you could include a note to say you’re thinking of them, a sticker or another little object that you know will brighten their day.
Whether you’re now ready to burst into song with sheer lunchbox joy, or you just feel like you’ve got some fresh time-saving tricks up your sleeve, your next step should probably be finishing off that biscuit. Before the kids see it.