We hear that parents find making lunchboxes one of the most stressful parts about going back to school - and with a lot of uncertainty around whether hot school lunches will be available due to Covid-19 and social distancing - we've got five healthy and balanced lunchbox options for school or those continuing to school at home.
Taking the fuss out of lunchbox prep and planning we've teamed up with Bahee Van De Bor, a Harley Street Paediatric Dietitian and former Great Ormond Street Hospital trained specialist childrens nutritionist and Haliborange, the UK’s No. 1 kids’ vitamin brand who have developed five great lunchbox ideas to get you through from Monday to Friday.
Sending our children back to school can be a stressful time for parents as we’re forced to relinquish control over what our kids are and are not eating throughout the day. With a number of government guidelines in place to ensure our kids’ lunchboxes are up to scratch, this adds pressure on busy, working parents to produce lunches that tick every box, five days a week
She adds, "I’ve been working with Haliborange on developing and approving a weeks’ worth of healthy, nutritionally balanced lunchtime meals. I hope that by following these easy recipes, parents can feel confident that their kids are heading off to school with meals that taste great and include many of the key vitamins and minerals they need for their growth and development. All children under 5 years of age also need a daily vitamin A, C and D supplement. Children who are yet to become confident eaters may benefit from a daily multivitamin supplement but do speak to your dietitian or doctor for tailored advice."
>> Bahee Van De Bor has also exclusively given JUNIOR her top ten tips on how to prepare a healthy and nutritionally balanced lunch for their kids. See below.
Manic Monday: Ideas for a healthy school packed lunch
Savoury: Mini Frittatas
These yummy little frittatas are so easy to make! Cook 50g wholemeal macaroni or small pasta shapes in boiling water for 10min until tender. Drain well and mix with 150g grated courgette, 100g grated Cheddar cheese and 3 beaten eggs. Season with salt and pepper and spoon into a greased 12-hole bun tin. (Or use silicone bun cases for ease). Bake at Gas Mark 5/fan 180°C until set – approx. 15min. Makes 12. Serve 3 per portion. (Keep the rest covered and refrigerated for 2-3 days). Serve with: a few crunchy lettuce leaves, 40g prepared melon and 40g cucumber chunks.
Sweet: Berry Nice Oaty Pud
Mix 50g frozen raspberries (or blueberries) with 80g natural low-fat yogurt and 30g rolled oats. Pack into a portable container and top with a few extra raspberries. (The frozen fruit keeps the dessert chilled as it thaws).
Tasty Tuesday: Ideas for a healthy school packed lunch
Savoury: Tuna Tortilla Whirls
Drain and mash an 80g can of tuna in spring water and mix with 20g finely grated Red Leicester cheese and 2tbsp low fat soft cheese. Spread onto a 40g wholemeal soft flour tortilla, right to the edges. Top with a handful of shredded lettuce. Roll up and slice into whirls. Serve with: 40g red pepper slices and 40g carrot sticks.
Sweet: Strawberry and Mango Mingle
Chop 40g strawberries and 40g ready-prepared mango and mix with an 85g pot of natural yoghurt.
Wonderful Wednesday: Ideas for a healthy school packed lunch
Savoury: Twirly Chicken Pasta Salad
Cook 80g wholemeal pasta spirals in boiling water for 10min until tender. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Add 80g chopped skinless roast chicken breast, 40g chopped red pepper, 40g frozen sweetcorn and 40g frozen peas. Mix in 1tbsp mayonnaise and 3tbsp low-fat natural yogurt. Makes 2 portions. (Keep the rest covered and refrigerated for 1-2 days). Serve with: 40g celery sticks and 60g cherry tomatoes.
Sweet: Peach and Mandarin Granola Pots
Drain the juice from a 213g can peaches in juice and a 298g can of mandarins in fruit juice. Chop the peaches and mix with the mandarins. Stir in 100g of nut-free granola. Share between four pots with lids. Makes 4. (Keep the rest covered and refrigerated for 3-4 days).
Terrific Thursday: Ideas for a healthy school packed lunch
Savoury: Egg and Tomato Mini Rolls
Hard-boil 1 egg. Cool, shell and chop. Mix with 1tsp natural yogurt, 1tsp mayonnaise, 2 chopped cherry tomatoes and 10g chopped cucumber. Spread onto 2 mini wholemeal bread rolls or finger rolls, top with cress and sandwich together. Serve with: 30g lettuce and 40g red peppers.
Sweet: Banana Fruit Bread
Put 4 Weetabix into a mixing bowl, 200g soft brown sugar and 300ml milk. Cover and leave to stand for several hours, or overnight. Next day, preheat the oven to Gas Mark 2/ fan oven 140°C. Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper. Mash 1 ripe banana in a bowl, crack in 2 large eggs and add 1tbsp honey. Beat together, then stir into the soaked mixture with 200g self-raising flour, 1/2tsp ground nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Transfer to the tin. Bake for 2 hours, checking with a fine skewer to make sure that the cake is cooked. Cool, slice and serve. Makes 14 slices. Serve: each piece a little pot (2tbsp) of low fat soft cheese to spread on top, with 2 sliced strawberries.
Free-From Friday: Ideas for a healthy school packed lunch (Vegan and dairy-free option)
Savoury: Hummus and Avocado Dip with Marmite Rice Cakes
Mash a small ripe avocado (50g when peeled and stoned). Mix with 2tbsp houmous and a few drops of lemon juice. Serve in a small pot, with 15g Marmite rice cakes (or mini bread sticks), 40g cucumber slices and 40g carrot sticks. Serve with: 3 soft dried apricots and an easy-peeler satsuma.
Sweet: Coconut Banana Yum!
Mash ½ small banana and mix it into 100g dairy-free coconut yogurt. Add 10g sultanas and transfer to a lidded pot.
TOP TEN TIPS : How to plan a nutritious lunch box for when kids go back to school from Bahee Van De Bor, Harley Street Paediatric Dietitian and former Great Ormond Street Hospital trained specialist childrens nutritionist .
- Plan for just the right amount of energy/calories
Lunch boxes should only provide around a third of children’s daily calories and not more. We have 1 in 3 children leaving primary school who are already overweight or living with obesity with 1 in 5 living with obesity2. For this reason, it’s important that lunchboxes are balanced with the correct ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
2. Start with high fibre carbohydrates that are a source of fibre
Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients – nutrients that the body uses in relatively large amounts and needs daily – and is the primary source of fuel for children. Half of daily calorie requirements should be provided by carbohydrates. Food sources of carbohydrates are bread, rice cakes, corn thins, bagels, rice, polenta, couscous, all types of potato, flour, pasta, oats, fruit and vegetables. When choosing bread for packed lunches, select a brand providing at least 5-6g of fibre per 100g. For all other carbohydrate foods, pick a brand providing the highest amount of fibre.
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3. Include vegetables and other fibre rich foods for gut health
Looking after your child’s gut is important as good gut health has a role in immunity, providing protection against general infections like the common cold. Fibre and prebiotic foods – like fruit and vegetables – feed good bacteria and other microorganisms that live in children’s guts to help the body digest food and absorb nutrients. Include at least 1-2 servings of vegetables like sliced carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, lightly cooked or raw broccoli and cauliflower. Include a small pot of hummus or yoghurt-based dip for children to eat it with.
Another alternative is homemade coleslaw (chopped cabbage, carrots, and green onion) tossed in a yoghurt dressing. Looking after children’s gut is important as good gut health has a role in immunity and provides protection against general infections like the common cold.
4. Choose lean or fibre rich protein
Contrary to popular belief, children do not need large quantities of protein to grow. Regardless, children do need adequate amounts of protein for normal growth and development and for the repair of their muscles and tissues. Protein rich foods include eggs, red meat, chicken, fish, lentils and legumes. Nuts and seeds are another source but do check with your school as most schools are nut-free. When selecting how much protein to include, a really nice trick is to use your child’s hand as a general guide for all ages.
For children aged 1-4 years of age, here’s an example of portion sizes:
· e.g. ½ - 1 egg
· 1 child’s palm size of sliced meat/chicken
· 4-5 tablespoons of cooked mince
· 2 tablespoons of tuna or other tinned fish
· ¼ fillet of cooked fish
· Palm sized portion of cooked lentils, beans and pulses or a small bowl
· 1-3 small falafels
5. Always Include an iron rich food
Some protein foods also double up as iron rich foods, therefore try not to omit this from their lunchboxes. For children following a vegetarian or plant-based diet, red lentils, chickpeas and beans are the richest plant sources of protein and iron.
6. Include a calcium rich food for strong bones and teeth
It’s not a myth, children do need calcium to build healthy bones and teeth. In fact, it’s a good idea to include a calcium rich food for their snack rather than their main meal as calcium and iron often compete for absorption. Yoghurt and cheese are great choices as they also double up as a protein food. For children following a dairy free diet, choose a soy, coconut or oat-based yoghurt that’s also calcium fortified. To improve flavour, many brands may include added sugar. Read nutrition labels to choose a brand with less added sugar or choose natural flavours and add pieces of fresh fruit to sweeten naturally.If you are worried about keeping pots of yoghurt cool, why not place individual pots of yoghurt in the freezer overnight before popping it into a lunchbox, so that it’s defrosted ready to eat by lunchtime?
7. Choose healthy fats for long-term heart health
Plant-based oils and fats are the best type of fats for children. Fats are still an important source of energy for children and should provide approximately 30% of their daily requirements. The best sources include avocado and hummus. When cooking vegetables, red meat or chicken choose vegetable oils like rapeseed or any type of olive oils. You can also use olive or rapeseed oil as the base for salad dressings or meat marinades. Although baking can be made “healthy” by using vegetable oils or margarine in baking, they usually have added sugar or too much fat. Depending on your child’s school policy around what can be included in lunch boxes, consider limiting baking to no more than 1-2 times in the week.
8. Pack 2-3 servings of fruit or vegetables for vitamins and minerals
Fruit and vegetables are rich in some types of water- and fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamins A, B and C. Vitamin A is important for the maintenance of normal vision and contributes to the normal function of the immune system, B vitamins to help their bodies utilise energy from carbohydrates and vitamin C to support the normal function of the immunity*. In vegetarian diets, Vitamin C also has an important role in aiding the absorption of non-haem iron, which is the type of iron found in plant foods. Fruit and vegetables are also a source of potassium, which is important for regulating fluid balance, muscle function and in maintaining blood pressure within a normal range.If you have a picky eater, get your chid involved in the menu planning and make it fun! Let them choose from a variety of options and ask them to pick which fruit and vegetables to include in their own sandwiches or lunchboxes. (*National Institutes of Health, 2020)
9. Choose heart healthy snacksSnacks should ideally be mini meals, a source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. See examples below.
· Firer: fresh fruit, e.g. clementine, apple, pear, pot of grapes or berries
· Fibre: sliced vegetables with a hummus or yoghurt-based dip
· Carbohydrate: rice cakes or corn thins
· Dairy: a small cube of cheese
· Protein: boiled egg
10. Keep portion sizes small for fun foods
Finally, check with your school regarding their policy for baked products. If it’s allowed, you could prepare your own mini savoury muffins that include vegetables, such as peas or spinach. For a sweet option, make your own baking with high fibre carbohydrates, such as oats, as a base. Then, sweeten naturally with dried fruit or mash it up in a puree form. And more importantly, don’t forget to keep portion sizes small and appropriately sized for their little bellies.
>> These recipes were created by Haliborange, the UK’s No 1 kids vitamin brand. They’re helping parents take the fuss out of lunchbox prep, making it simple and quick to put together a lunch that’s as tasty as it is nutritionally balanced – just like Haliborange. For more information on products go to the Haliborange or @haliborangeuk