Saturday, 11 January 2014

Back to school (or back to work!): Lunchbox Inspiration Guide

Wholemeal egg and lettuce sandwich, apple, reduced fat
yoghurt, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, reduced fat cheese
cubes and water make a healthy lunchbox.
It's that time of year again! Back to school or work means back to packed lunches. Did you end the school year in 2013 with half eaten soggy sandwiches and bruised fruit making their way back home? Does it seem like your child will only eat things in packages (I'm talking packets of chips, biscuits, fruit straps, juice poppers)? Or maybe you got so sick of boring lunches yourself that you ended the work year with a few too many bought lunches? I've put together what I like to call a 'lunchbox inspiration guide' to give you a few ideas on what a healthy lunchbox should look like, but also to remind you that packed lunches don't have to be boring!

First, for the healthy part...

Every lunchbox should contain:
  • 2 serve wholegrain (cereal) foods for energy and fibre e.g. bread, wrap, pasta, brown rice, quinoa, cous cous, bread roll, crumpet, breakfast cereal
  • 1 serve lean meats or alternatives for protein e.g. chicken breast, tinned tuna, egg, four bean mix, nuts, tofu, leftover dinner meats
  • 1 serve reduced fat dairy for calcium e.g. milk, cheese, yoghurt
  • 1 serve fruit for vitamins and minerals e.g. fresh whole fruit, fruit salad, dried fruit, tinned fruit, fruit juice only very occasionally
  • 2 serves vegetables for vitamins and minerals e.g. raw vegetables in a salad or on a sandwich, stirfry or steamed vegetables from dinner leftovers, raw vegetable sticks, four bean mix
  • At least 500mL water to keep well hydrated     

'Sushi rolls' made with wholemeal bread, vita-weats with reduced fat
cheese slices, grape tomatoes, dried apricots and apple, a whole
apple and of course, water, make another healthy lunchbox.
     Now for a quick lesson in food safety...
      It’s important that the food in the lunchbox stays cool, especially on hot Summer days. Not only will kids (and you) be more likely to eat and drink foods tha are nice and cold, but it will prevent bacteria growing that could cause food poisoning.

      Foods that must be kept cold:
      - meat, eggs or meals containing these
milk, yoghurt, cheese
        dips such as hommus or tzatziki
      Tips to keep food cold:
         Fill the drink bottle half way with water and freeze overnight. Fill completely in the morning and store next to the lunchbox (don’t freeze the entire drink bottle or it may not melt in time to drink from it!)
- Use an insulated lunch box or freezable lunch box
      - Add small freezer blocks to the lunch box
- Freeze items like yoghurt or grapes, they'll stay cool and keep everything else cool in the process

      Ready for some lunch ideas?

      Mix it up with wholegrain or sourdough bread, a wholemeal pita pocket, rye mountain bread or a grainy roll. Try fillings such as;
      - egg mashed with a little reduced fat mayo, grated carrot and lettuce 
      - avocado, chicken breast, tomato and rocket 
      - roast beef, wholegrain mustard, tomato and lettuce 
      - reduced fat ricotta cheese and banana (mashed or sliced)
      - can flavoured tuna, carrot, sprouts and lettuce 
      - leftover falafel or rissole, reduced fat hommus, and tabbouleh 
      Tip: Help prevent the sandwich from going soggy by patting washed salad items dry with paper towel before putting them on the sandwiches

      Make sure there is a carbohydrate base such as pasta, rice, quinoa, cous cous, chickpeas or other beans and a protein source, such as cheese, egg, lean meat or tofu and of course plenty of salad veg! 
      Tip: Experiment with herbs and spices and olive-oil based dressings for plenty of flavour.

      Some great next-day lunch ideas that work well hot or cold are frittata, quiche, fritters, rissoles, meatballs, kebabs, rice paper rolls, sushi and homemade pizza.
Wholegrain chicken and salad wrap, plain popcorn,
strawberries, a banana, reduced fat milk drink and
water- just another good lunchbox idea.

     And some snack ideas...

      - Cut up fruit salad in a small container- often more interesting than whole fruit and won’t get squashed in a hard container
      - Yoghurt tub
      - Plain popcorn in a snap lock bag
- Cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks and a small tub of reduced fat hommus, tzatziki or cream cheese to dip into
Trail mix of dried fruit such as sultanas, raw unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds and pepitas
- Homemade fruit muffin made with wholemeal flour
- Wholegrain crackers (such as vita-weats or ryvitas) with slices of reduced fat cheese, peanut butter or vegemite
Muesli bar (such as my recipe here)
Dry wholegrain breakfast cereal in a snap lock bag, e.g. special K, sultana bran buds
- Berry pikelets (such as my recipe here)
- Homemade pita bread ‘chips’ (sprinkle with herbs, garlic or parmesan and bake in the oven)
- Hard-boiled egg
- Slice raisin bread- try Burgen fruit and muesli bread
- Small carton of reduced fat plain milk with a couple of teaspoons of milo, or a Sippah straw to make it flavoured
      For more snack ideas see another one of my posts on healthy snacks here.

Double decker salad sandwich, plain popcorn, blueberries,
dry cereal, yoghurt, a pear and water make a healthy

      Time-saver tips:

      - Make lunch the night before so it’s not such a rush in the morning.
      - Use the weekend to ‘prepare’ for the week by putting portions of popcorn, wholegrain crackers, cereal and trail mix in small snap lock bags and store in the cupboard so they’re easy to grab.
- Make a large batch of grainy fruit or savoury muffins, peel off the muffin cases, wrap in cling wrap and freeze individually. They will last for months and you can just pull them out the night before to defrost in the fridge.
- Make use of leftovers. For those with a microwave and/or sandwich press at work- the lunch world is your oyster! (so to speak). Any dinner leftovers will work- make extra so you’re covered for lunch the next day, or make double matches of meals, freeze in individual portions and pull out of the freezer the night before.
      Some of my favourite lunch boxes to start the new year with!

Nude Food Movers- stop food package rubbish (see
here for details)

ScrunchBox- never waste space with an empty
lunchbox again! (see here for details)

PackIt- pop in the freezer the night
before for the perfect cooler bag
(see here for details)

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