Here's 10 healthy kids lunchbox ideas to inspire you at the start of this new school year. The recipes are quick, easy, healthy and versatile enough for hopefully every child to enjoy. With just a little time and planning, you can avoid getting into a lunchbox rut and give them an exciting, healthy and tasty lunch that they will look forward to eating every day.
Mini Muffin Pizzas are so quick and easy to make. To make four, split two breakfast muffins in half and toast lightly. Mix together 2 tablespoons tomato puree and 4 tablespoons passata with a pinch of dried Italian seasoning. Spread the tomato mixture over the muffin halves, cut side up, and top with grated cheese along with the toppings of your choice. Pop under a hot grill for a minute to melt the cheese.
To help your child have a balanced diet, choose one protein topping, such as ham, tuna or chicken along with one vegetable topping such as peppers, sweetcorn or pineapple.
Pitta Pockets are just a slight deviation from a sandwich, but they are more fun and travel better as well. Choose wholemeal or seeded pittas for extra fibre, toast lightly, split in half and stuff with your childs favourite fillings. Here's a few ideas:
- grated cheese and sliced apple
- tuna and sweetcorn mixed with mayonnaise
- shredded roast chicken and salad
- grated carrots mixed with houmous
- peanut butter and sliced banana.
Mini Quiches with a Ham Crust instead of pastry are one of my favourite packed lunch staples. They are low in fat and high in protein, as well as being a great source or dairy. To make six: grease a six hole muffin tin and line with 6 slices of wafer thin ham. Distribute around 60g finely chopped broccoli florettes into the ham cups. Mix together 2 large eggs, 50g grated mature cheddar cheese and 100ml whole milk. Bake for around 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 5 / 190 C / 170 fan.
For a vegetarian option use a slice of bread with the crusts cut off rolled very flat with a rolling pin. Swap the broccoli for your childs favourite vegetables.
Houmous and Vegetable Sticks make a really fun lunch for a fussy eater. Houmous is packed with protein and your can pick and choose vegetables your child will enjoy. Include a few breadsticks or oatcakes to dunk as well.
Homemade houmous is easy to make and much cheaper and more healthy than shop bought. Blitz up 400g tin chickpeas (drained and rinsed) with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp tahini (or use 1 tbsp peanut butter as a substitute to tahini) and pinch of cumin. Keeps in the fridge for up for five days.
Pasta Salads are fun and very versatile as you can add your childs favourite foods and flavours to entice them. They can be mixed with homemade tomato sauce or mayonnaise or just left dry. Choose your childs favourite pasta shapes or colourful tricolour pasta. Wholewheat pasta is a good choice as it releases energy more slowly.
For three kiddie sized servings of this pasta salad with sweetcorn and ham, cook 75g dried pasta and mix with around 75g chopped ham and 3 tablespoons of sweetcorn. Add some chopped spring onions or olives if desired.
Quesadillas, like pitta pockets, travel much better than sandwiches and are great for smuggling vegetables into fussy eaters. Sprinkle a good handful of grated cheese over one tortilla wrap and sprinkle over fillings of your choice such as ham, tomato, chicken, peppers, sweetcorn, tuna, olives, spinach or cooked mushrooms. Place another tortilla on top and grill on each side for around a minute until the cheese has melted and 'glued' everything together. Choose wholemeal tortillas for extra fibre.
Savoury Muffins are another great way to smuggle vegetables into fussy kids. To make 6 of these courgette and cheese muffins, mix 1 egg with 110ml milk, 50ml sunflower oil, 50g grated cheese and half a small grated courgette. In another bowl, combine 100g self raising flour, 60g wholemeal flour and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together gently and spoon into a six hole muffin tin lined with paper cases. Bake for around 25 minutes in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 6 / 200 C / 180 fan.
A Sushi-Wich is just a fun way of presenting a wrap. Square wraps, preferably the wholemeal ones, are perfect for this. My kids love these made with ham and soft cheese, houmous mixed with grated carrots or peanut butter. Spread fillings thinly and evenly over the entire wrap before rolling up slowly and slicing into 'sushi' rolls.
Rice Salads, like pasta salads, are easy, healthy and versatile. Use brown rice if your kids like it, or a mixture of brown and white. Add your childs favourite vegetables as well as a serving of protein such as tuna, chickpeas, ham or chicken, and mix with mayonnaise, houmous or tomato sauce, or leave dry.
To make four kiddie sized servings of this delicious rice salad with tuna, red pepper and mayo, cook 150g rice and leave to cool. Mix with a tin of tuna, drained, 1 chopped red pepper and 4 tablespoons mayonnaise. Add a splash of lemon juice to taste.
Potato and Bean Salad makes a great vegetarian packed lunch. Potatoes are a great source of fibre and all the vitamins are just under the skin so roast or boil new potatoes in their skins and leave to cool before mixing with beans and pulses of your choice. Make a tasty dressing with olive oil, lemon juice and chopped parsley if your kids like it.
Finally, here's a good tip. When putting together a packed lunch, it helps to include something from each of the food groups to ensure you give your child a balanced diet. Try to include one portion of carbohydrate, protein, dairy, fruit and/or vegetables. Avoid high sugar snacks - complex carbohydrates like oats, which release energy slowly are a better choice. Go for wholewheat starches where possible and make everything look appealing.