Life’s a Feast: Back to school lunch ideas

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Chowing down: (From left) Arrowtown School kids Josh Viana, George Apse, Marlo Molgat, Lennox Fa'amalepe, Oscar Stanley and Ashton Wilson-White

The prospect of heading back to school can be somewhat daunting for both kids and parents alike, after all the fun and indulgences of summer holidays. Take one less stress out of your morning and ease back into the world of routine and order with this list of simple school lunch ideas and suggestions. I often search for new and appealing ways to nourish my kids at school. For me, lunches that are quick and easy to create whilst remaining healthy and filling are the priority. Lunches that you can prepare beforehand are also a great time-saver for a busy school morning. Trying to find the balance of meeting the nutritional needs of a growing child, while still offering food they will actually enjoy eating, can be tricky. Chat to your children about what they actually like and try and find a good balance between what they want to eat and what you want them to eat! Also take time to talk to your child about the importance of sitting down and actually eating their snacks and lunch at break times before they run off to play. It is a simple fact that kids who are well-fuelled and hydrated during the day have substantially higher levels of concentration, memory and energy. This will help teachers and children alike enjoy their day and get more out of lessons and learning.

Carbohydrate base: These give kids the energy to get through the day. Opt for wholegrain wherever possible as it provides longer-lasting energy. Wholemeal bread, pasta, pita breads, wraps and brown rice are all good sources of this.

Dairy: Important as this food group contains calcium which is essential for strong bones and teeth. Cheeses, yoghurts, almonds and strangely broccoli are a great way to boost their calcium intake.

Lean protein: Also a necessary addition to help in the ‘build and repair’ process as your child rapidly grows. Plus it helps give your kids the full feeling. Leftover chicken, a hardboiled egg, canned tuna or salmon, cheese, beans and ham are all great ideas.

Fruit and veges: Also a must, the greater variety of colour, the more variety of nutrients. Every lunchbox should contain at least one piece of fruit and a handful of vegetables or vice versa. I tend to stay away from large whole fruit, as more often than not they come straight back home. Smaller pieces and more variety seems to work in my household.

Fluid: There is no real reason to give your child anything other than water in their drink bottle. Fruit juices or carbonated drinks add little nutritional value if any and add unnecessary sugar (without the benefits of fibre) into your child’s diet.

Lunchbox ideas: Using leftovers from meals is a great money and time saver. Things like potatoes, rice and veges can all be reinvented and reused.

Main lunch

Rice paper rolls (keep damp cloth on them overnight)
Wholemeal wraps or pitas – stuff with protein, dairy and veges
Pita or Turkish bread pizzas – a good way to get kids to eat veges
Quesadilla with cheese, kidney bean, tomato and lean salami
Sushi or sushi rice ball stuffed with tuna and cucumber (make rice the night before)
Sandwich sushi with ham, tomato, cream cheese, carrot and lettuce (flatten bread and roll up like sushi)
Turn leftover pasta into a salad using fresh veges
Fried rice – a good way to use leftover plain rice
Potato and salmon fishcakes – a good way to use up leftover potatoes
Corn or vege fritters
Small quiche with egg and veges
Chicken legs or wings, marinated in soya sauce and honey
Turn leftover mince into homemade pies

Snacks

Hardboiled egg
Vege, tomato and cheese kebabs
Homemade tortilla chips (from wraps) or microwaved poppadoms with a tasty dip
Rice or wholemeal crackers with cheese and marmite
Hummus and carrot or capsicum vege sticks
Cheese, quinoa or fruit muffins
Pretzels
Small can of tuna
Cheese rolls or cheese segments, celery and cream cheese
Scones

Easy to eat fruit and veges

Summer stonefruit – plums, apricots, nectarines
Small bananas
Kiwi, mandarin or chopped pineapple
Baby sweet capsicum or baby cucumber
Cherry tomatoes
Half avocado
Broccoli (with a small dip)
Snow peas, sugar snap peas or edamame beans