It’s nearly that time of year already! In just over a week the kids will be heading back to school, including for the first time ever Freddie who starts at preschool. Wow how 3 years have flown by. I know what Freddie gets like if he’s hungry – grumpy, tired, quick to tears and definitely not in the right head space to learn so I want to create morning teas and lunches that I know he’s going to gobble down. I also know that he is going to be too busy playing and enjoying the novelty of preschool to want to sit down and eat for long so whatever I make him as got to be quick and easy to eat too.
If you are going to spend time and energy creating healthy lunch boxes for your children, you want them to come home empty! Here are a few hints and tips that will get your kids gobbling down their lunches and make their lunch boxes the envy of the class.
1. Variety is the spice of life
Try and mix up the foods you give your kid over the week. Just like adults, children find it boring eating pretty much the same thing every day. Try out different breads (bagels, wraps, pita bread) to make a change from their usual sandwich. For a change from bread based lunches you could swap them for fritters, muffins, sushi, pasties, mini home-made pizzas, Vietnamese rice paper rolls, mini quiches, frittatas or pasta salads.
2. Pack food they like
If your child won’t eat something at home they are not going to suddenly start eating it at preschool or school so choose foods that you know they are going to eat. This may sound obvious but when I was teaching we used to check the little kids lunchboxes before they went out to play and you’d be surprised how many of them would tell me “I don’t like *** but Mummy/Daddy made it anyway”. One teacher used to write Dear Mummy/Daddy letters from the child asking their parents to stop putting in particular foods because they really didn’t like them!
3. Make it easy to get at
Not only is glad wrap really bad for the environment, little fingers find it really hard to unwrap. Most schools only have a maximum of 15 – 20 minutes of enforced eating time at school before the play bell goes and they rush off to an activity or race around. You want to maximise their eating time so opt for reusable containers or lunch boxes with compartments, that keep the food fresh but readily accessible. Add an eski/cool box brick or freeze a water bottle to keep their food fresh, there is nothing worse than sweaty cheese!
4. Get your children involved
Children are much more likely to eat something they have made themselves. It is also a great way to give them some extra independence and help them develop some time management skills. Mornings are a hectic time in most families with everyone busy getting ready for the day ahead but it is definitely worth the time to get a family routine of making lunches together. They will be more likely to eat their own delicious creations and research shows that children who are involved in preparing healthy food are more likely to go on to be adults who make healthy choices. For preschoolers there is no reason why you can’t get them involved by giving them a this or that healthy option choice before you make their lunch.
5. Make it colourful
By having a range of colours in their lunchbox you will know you have given them a great variety of vitamins and minerals. Colourful food is also more appealing to children. Here are some colourful finger food ideas, ideal for morning tea or lunch, that require minimal preparation:
- carrot, cucumber or capsicum sticks with hummus or tzatziki
- grapes (natures lollies!)
- cherry tomatoes
- sweetcorn fritters
- hard-boiled eggs
- fruit slices and yoghurt dip
6. Limit the sugar
All children (and adults!) want a tasty treat in their lunchbox. Just because it is a treat doesn’t mean it needs to be unhealthy and high sugar. You want your children’s lunch boxes to fuel them for a full-on day of learning and activity at school and you definitely don’t want them having a sugar low mid-afternoon.
I’m going to be running a series on lunchbox ideas for the whole family over the next few weeks. If you’re like our household you’ll be making lunches for the mums and dads as well as the kids so my ideas will work for everyone’s lunchboxes! Hopefully they’ll be ideas you can use for picnics out as well as work days. Join Freddie’s Food on facebook, twitter and instagram to make sure you don’t miss out.