There is lots of information about lunch boxes out there. Much of it is very expensive and takes masses of time to produce. In our house, I organise the food and cook the evening meal, but it is my husband who makes the 2 packed lunches. At 6.30 in the morning, he has about 15 minutes to make the lunches and very little brain power.
What should go into a lunch box?
We tend to opt for bread at lunch – wholegrain or granary and mix it up with the fillings:
- Homous (3 tablespoons)
- Chicken (I buy 1kg of chicken breast at a time or a couple of whole chickens, cook them and slice them – it is much cheaper than buying cooked and often with less added salt (about the size of the palm of your hand)
- Egg mayo (1-2 eggs)
- Cheese (matchbox size piece of cheese)
- Cream cheese (30g preferably low fat)
- Tuna mayo (small amount of mayo, half to whole tin of tuna)
- Mackerel or sardines – tinned in tomato sauce (whole tin)
- (I tend to avoid ham in sandwiches as the evidence says we should limit processed meat – if I do use it, I save it for evening meals)
- Peanut butter – if your school/workplace allows it – ours doesn’t
The amount of filling is important. If there is not enough protein in the sandwich, and not enough vegetable on the side, you may end up with the post lunch slum.
If you would prefer not to have bread, wraps, pitta for lunch, try oat cakes or using the sandwich fillings to make a pasta salad.
Vegetables – aim to have at least 2 full portions with your lunch. A portion is a good handful (80g) of each. To make it simple in our house I buy in celery, radishes, tomatoes, mangetout/sugar snap peas, cauliflower, carrots, mini sweetcorn, and cucumber and then each lunch 2 of these are picked to put in.
Fruit – it is always nice to finish off lunch with something a little sweet so fruit is a great option. Like with vegetables, variety is really important. We should try and eat different colours of fruit and veg. When I do the weekly shop I look for fruit of different colours – often the ones on offer too – to do this.
Red – apples, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, red currants
Orange – oranges, clementines, apricots, peaches (tinned are good too), nectarines
Yellow – bananas, melon
Green – kiwi, pears, apples, grapes
Blue – plums, grapes
Indigo – blackberries (frozen are good too), blackcurrants
Violet – plums, figs
There is nothing wrong with adding a packet of crisps or a piece of cake, and sometimes those go in our packed lunches too but neither provide much additional nutrition and the sweeter foods can increase the risk of the post lunch slump. If what is described above isn’t enough, some plain yoghurt with the fruit is a great addition.
If you are making children’s lunches, make them fun by adding notes to your child or stickers. Use different coloured pots (children’s seem to like their food in lots of little pots – like treasure pots. Get them involved in making the sandwiches or choosing from the options to make their own menu for the week. You are in charge of the overall options, they can choose when they have them. This can also be a great way of teaching about variety because you could set them a challenge to have 4 different sandwich fillings in the week or to make sure they are getting their rainbow.