Click here for your free lunchbox planner printable
The kids are back at school, what a relief! But the lunchbox nightmare is back … for you ladies. For me that’s it. I made well over 3700 lunchboxes, but since my youngest finished Year 12 last year, I’m done!
Making lunchboxes is a drag and, as if that were not enough, lunchboxes often come back half full! Made sensibly lunchboxes can offer a good eating experience. The key is to lower your expectations on how much effort you should put in, as well as how much should be eaten.
Why do lunchbox comes back half full?
After breakfast (don’t skip it), children usually have a 10.30am “fruit break” then, at 1.30pm it is time for lunch. Many kids eat sitting on the grass, which is far from ideal. It’s no surprise they rush this meal to play with their mates. School is simply not the optimal place for having lunch and by framing the day with other meals such as breakfast, afternoon snack and dinner you will give your child ample opportunities to get all the nutrients they need to grow well.
Lunch boxes coming back half full, are therefore quite likely to reflect the eating conditions at school rather than dislike for what you offered!
1. Avoid the lunchbox compensation technique
Your child is perfectly capable to self-regulate quantities of food they need, so if they have not eaten enough at school they will catch up with their afternoon snack and dinner. It is therefore not the best strategy to add all sorts of funky nibbles to their lunch box or offer additional snacks at all times. These will compromise self-regulation and become favourite foods. Once eaten, they take the edge off hunger, sandwiches don’t even get a look! So take a deep breath, trust your child’s appetite and avoid the lunch box compensation panic. After school provide a wholesome afternoon snack. Read more here about how many snacks your child needs.
Water is the only drink children need. A small, easy to carry bottle can be refilled at school with fresh, cold water when needed. Sports drinks are better given to kids with strong sporting commitments. Carbonated and soft drinks including juice can wreak havoc on teeth and appetite.
3. Save time and thinking to bring variety
Structure your lunch box offer around each day of the week to bring variety. You will need a thermos, small containers and ice packs*.
Here is an example of what it can look like, the idea is that you create your own.
· Day 1: left overs, hot or cold.
· Day 2 and 5: Use different breads for sandwiches
· Day 3: Salads with legumes or cereals
· Day 4: Use extras you cooked the night before: quiche, muffin, rolls etc.
4. The mighty sandwich
Sandwiches and rolls offer simple, nutritious options. They can be varied too: think texture: crunchy (baguette), soft (white roll). They can be thin (pita bread) or dense (quality, wholemeal sourdough). Depending on sauces, or fats (butter etc) you add, they can be dry or moist. They can be colourful, think colours: green, orange, white, purple, pink, red.
- Choose bread: multigrain, wholemeal, baguette, bagel, brioche, wrap
- Choose content: meat, chicken, turkey, ham, egg, tuna, salmon, cheese.
- Choose filler: tomatoes, carrot, zucchini, eggplant, beetroot, salad, spinach…
- Add optional cheese: Australian gruyere, cheddar, camembert, brie, gouda, cottage cheese, parmesan.
- Go for condiments and sauces: butter, mayo, pesto, guacamole, other spreads etc.
Once you start to unleash different combinations there will be no stopping you.
5. The 2 minute legumes salad:
- Can of chickpeas or/and beans
- Home-made dressing
- Hard-boiled egg (optional)
- Tuna (optional)
- Parsley (chopped finely)
- Red onion (sliced finely).
Making lunchboxes sensibly will avoid burn out for you and the kids. You do not have to create the most incredible lunch boxes (who needs more competition?), nor do your kids have to eat Vegemite sandwiches every day. Click here for your free lunch planner printable.
*Remember food needs to be kept very hot (watch out for hot spills) or very cold to reduce the risk of food poisoning…