You know the scene, it’s first thing in the morning and you have to make your kids lunchboxes for the umpteenth time. How do youkeep those lunch box ideas for kids coming? You really have run out of inspiration and they are bored to the back teeth of a ham sandwich, an apple and a yogurt, half of which they say they “don’t have time to eat Mummy”. Well how would you feel if you knew there were some simple ways to avoid getting stuck in this rut? In fact these next five tips can be used to get you out of that rut because we all fall into it from time to time. Here we ask Jenny Tschiesche, Nutritionist and Founder of Lunchbox Doctor to share with us her five tips for steering clear of the same old ham sandwich, apple and yogurt lunchbox rut:
1. Bento Boxes
By their very nature bento boxes or lunchboxes that have compartments force you to ‘think inside the box’. They make you think about how the lunch will look when your child opens the lid. They will make you think about what foods will fit in each section. Most importantly they will make you pack a variety of different things as you will feel compelled to fill each section with a different kind of food. For those more creative amongst us you may even find yourself creating a theme on a certain day such as World Book Day. I leave the creativity to my children who come up with all sorts of ideas which leads me nicely on to point two.
2. Get The Kids Involved
They really will eat more and are more likely to try new things if they have helped decide what is going in to their lunchbox. Giving them choice does not mean giving them carte blanches to choose whatever they like. They should be given choices within the confines of your budget and what you think are better, healthier and more appropriate choices for them. Bear in mind also that some schools have a ban on certain foodstuffs due to allergy. For example my daughter loves chicken satay but this year two children with peanut allergy have joined the school so we will no longer have that as an option. A great tip is to write out the options on post-it notes and get your children to choose their optimal lunchboxes (you will need several versions to keep the variety going) from the post-it notes.
3. Lunchbox Bingo
Once kids are willing to become involved in their lunchbox planning try and help them understand the different food groups and why they need them. A nutritionally balanced lunchbox should contain 6 components: carbohydrate, protein, fruit, vegetable, calcium and a drink. One of the games that works well with children of primary school age is a game of ‘Lunchbox Bingo’. In this game they get given a blank table of days of the week and food groups. Each day of the week needs to have a tick in each of the 6 food group boxes. We have a free printable here for you to download
4. Baking Together
A really great way to keep children’s involvement and help them understand what goes into foods is to invest 1 hour a week in baking something together for the lunchboxes in the week ahead. It actually doesn’t matter what goes into the baking to start with. A simple sponge cake or some chocolate brownies would be good. Children get familiar with ingredients and also how much sugar as well as other ingredients is going in to making these baked goods. They have no additives or preservatives added and they are REAL food. As you progress perhaps try wholemeal flours in cakes or oats to make flapjacks, try reducing the sugars a little and chat about why. These can be eaten and/or frozen for use in future lunchboxes. However much a child loves flapjacks it is doubtful they’ll want one every day so build up a stock of frozen baked goods to add to the lunchbox.
5. Avoid the Sandwich
If you ban the use of bread and only use pitta’s, wraps, crackers etc you are more likely to be a little more inventive with the filling. You know what? You don’t even need to have a filling. The pitta or crackers could be served alone with some cubes of cheese, some apple and a few tomatoes. You know how this doesn’t actually sound that different from what you were doing previously but believe you me this is a much better route to more variety in the future. You are not trying to boil the ocean you are taking simple but effective baby steps towards a greater variety of lunchbox foods in your child’s lunchbox.
Do you have any tips to stop the lunchbox getting boring? Have you tried different ways to get your kids to eat? Share your tips with us here.
Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net / kunl