Written by: Cally Worden
Lunch boxes offer the perfect opportunity to provide your kids with a healthy midday meal. But when you’re packing it up late in the evening, tired and on auto-pilot, it can be hard to keep the supply of lunches varied, fresh, and interesting. There’s nothing less inspiring for a hungry child than a soggy sandwich, so try some of these delicious alternatives, send your kids off to school with a lunch box that will be the envy of their mates.
Add Sparkle to your Sandwiches
The humble sandwich remains a good lunchbox staple, but it’s how you approach it that counts. First, get creative with your bread. There are so many varieties available that you are sure to find something different to tempt even the tetchiest of taste buds. Vary the shape of your bread too – thin, medium, or thick sliced, bread rolls, pitas, wraps, bagels, muffins, baguettes – if you keep it stimulating you will hold your kids’ interest and hopefully ensure they devour whatever you offer with gusto, instead of trying to swap it for something unhealthy.
Once you’ve got the bread part sorted you can turn your attention to the fillings.
Make it Look Appetising
Any good chef will tell you that presentation is a vital part of the taste experience.
If you crush a sandwich of any form into a tight bind of cling film, or shove it wonkily into a sandwich bag so half the contents spill out then it’s going to lose visual appeal. You need to keep it fresh, so try wrapping first in a piece of kitchen roll to absorb any wetness – this helps prevent the bread getting soggy. Then carefully wrap in foil, which helps to preserve the shape. Keeping the sandwich chilled overnight will also help keep it looking fresh.
Once your child gets inside the wrapping the contents still need to look good, so think about cutting into triangles instead of squares, making double-decker sandwiches, using multiple filings to bring a variety of colours and textures to your kids’ feast. Here are a few delicious sandwich fillers to try:
- Grated cheese and apple, with a sprinkle of chopped spring onion, and a light spread of mayo mixed with a drop of lemon juice
- Tuna or smoked mackerel flaked and mixed with mayo and Greek yoghurt, with a dash of lemon juice, topped with crispy lettuce
- Cooked chicken mixed with a little mayo and paprika, topped with cucumber and lettuce
- Sliced cheddar with tomato and a sprinkling of dried basil
- Cold meat under a layer of roasted peppers
- Chicken wrap with guacamole, sliced pepper and grated cheese – roll with a fold at the bottom to keep the contents in, then wrap in greaseproof paper and secure with a loose rubber band or tie with string. Your child can then peel off the paper and push out the wrap like an ice-pop
There are plenty of alternatives to a good sandwich, offering something different two or three days a week will keep your kids guessing and their diet varied and balanced. The same rules of variety and visual appeal apply here too, so keep this in mind and give the following tasty treats a whirl:
- Pasta or rice salad – so many ways to do this, just mix cold cooked pasta or rice with tuna, chicken, or beans and any mix of chopped salad and cold veg that takes your fancy, lubricating with Greek yoghurt, mayo, salad cream or lemon juice (or any combination of these)
- Sticks and Dips – many kids love houmous and other dips. A small tub of their favourite blend coupled with a bag of fresh fruit and veg sticks is sure to be a winner
- Mini-Kebabs – threading cheese, meat, fruit and veg morsels onto a stick transforms simple foods into an exciting ‘experience’ and is a great way to get kids interested in eating
- Crackers and Cheese – supermarkets offer a range of exciting single portion cheeses that can delight youngsters who love having something to fiddle with. Offer with crackers (here again you have a stunning variety to choose among), olives, cherry tomatoes and sliced apple
Finding things to replace the crisps and chocolate bar aspects of the lunchbox kit can be a challenge, but in reality the choice is there if you look hard enough. Crackers offer a good alternative to crisps, as do unsalted nut and seeds, dried fruits and dried apple or vegetable crisps.
For a sweet dessert that packs a health punch opt for cereal bars, flapjacks, or homemade fruit muffins. If you’re feeling creative, then mixing up your own yoghurt blends (get the kids to help) is another healthy and fun alternative – try natural yoghurt with fresh chopped fruit, or blended with a little jam. Add some crispy bran or muesli into the lunchbox that the kids can add themselves.