Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids
Being a busy parent, it can be hard to dream up imaginative, healthy lunchbox recipes for your child's lunch. With 5 million lunchboxes being prepared every morning, you're not alone! Despite it being a challenge, it's important that you pack up your child a balanced lunch - and that's where we come in!
We've selected three tasty recipes from Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids, by Amanda Grant (photography by Tara Fisher), to help give you ideas that are easy, affordable and, most importantly, ones your child will want to eat.
There are also top tips on what packaging to use for certain types of foods, plus advice on getting the most out of the lunchbox.
For more recipes from the book, you can pick up a copy for £10.99 at Rylands Peter & Small.
Coleslaw - serves 4
If your child does not like eating cooked cabbage, making coleslaw is a good way of sneaking it into his/her diet.
One small cabbage will make enough for about 4 portions of coleslaw. You may need to keep trying this recipe if your child turns his/her nose up the first time you give it to them.
You can be as creative with this recipe as you like – try adding grated apple (doused in lemon juice to stop it from going brown), beetroot, celery or red cabbage. Serve the vegetables thinly sliced so it’s easier for children to eat and more appealing.
- 1 small head or ½ large white or green cabbage
- 2 carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
- Large handful of raisins
- Large handful of peanuts (optional)
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise or salad cream
- 1 tablespoon natural yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon runny honey
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cut the cabbage into quarters, cut out the hard core and then thinly slice the cabbage and put it into a bowl.
- Add the carrots and pepper to the cabbage, along with the raisins. Add peanuts if you like.
- In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise yoghurt and honey and season with a little black pepper. Add to the coleslaw and mix well.
- Store in the fridge, ready to serve.
Mini pizzas - serves 2
If your child likes cold pizza, why not make one to pop into his/her lunchbox? You can make these pizzas with rolls, muffins or French bread. Prepare these pizzas the night before – cook one for the lunchbox and keep the other in the fridge until you need it for your own lunch.
- 2 English muffins or 1 thin part-baked French baguette
1 garlic clove
2–3 tablespoons tomato puree
- Salami, ham (shredded), tinned tuna in sunflower oil (drained), sweetcorn (drained), thinly sliced red pepper (deseeded), green or black olives (pitted and cut in half)
- 2 handfuls of grated Cheddar
- 6 slices mozzarella (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 190˚C/375˚F/Gas 5.
- Cut the muffin in half lengthways and lightly toast each half. Rub the cut side of each half with the garlic.
- Spread the tomato puree over the muffin. Top with your child’s favourite toppings, sprinkle with the Cheddar and lay the mozzarella on top, if using.
- Cook in the oven for 5–8 minutes until golden and bubbling. Leave to cool.
Fresh fruit jelly - serves 5-6
Jelly is something all children enjoy, so why not put some in their lunchbox as a tangy treat? Add some seasonal fresh fruits or tinned fruits into the pots before you pour over the jelly. You can also make the jelly with a combination of fruit juice and water.
Each packet of jelly will make 5–6 small jellies (using 5–6 jelly moulds)
- 1 packet orange jelly
- 1 tin mandarins or fresh satsumas
- 1 packet raspberry jelly
- 1 tin raspberries or fresh or frozen raspberries
- 1 packet lemon jelly
- 1 tin citrus fruits or fresh orange, peach or apricots
- 1 packet strawberry jelly
- Fresh or frozen strawberries or raspberries
- If you are using tinned fruits, melt the jelly with the recommended amount of water (usually 100ml). Then add the juice from the tin of fruit and enough water to make it up to the right volume according to the packet instructions. If using fresh fruit, follow the packet instructions for the jelly.
- Mash half the tinned or fresh fruit to a pulp and add to the jelly.
- Divide the remaining fruits between the jelly moulds.
- Pour the fruity jelly mixture over the fruit in each mould and leave to set overnight.
Lunchbox packaging - top tips
Keep it fresh
Some of the fresh food ideas in Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids, like pâtés, cooked chicken and yoghurts, will need to be kept cool in the lunchbox. If you can, purchase an insulated lunchbox. Alternatively, add a small icepack to your child’s lunchbox to help keep the contents fresh.
Similarly, any hot food will need to be kept hot, so it’s good to invest in a good flask. The small fat ones are best for children, because they can eat straight from them without having to decant the food into a bowl.
Once you start to make healthy lunchboxes for your child, you’ll discover that you create less waste because you are no longer purchasing heavily packaged products.
When you make your child’s packed lunch, try to keep the amount of packaging you use to a minimum
and recycle anything left in the lunchbox. Involve your children by asking them to put their rubbish
into the relevant bins, so that they get used to the idea of recycling. Remember rubbish in the bin means more rubbish in the landfill site, and this is what we must avoid.
Try to avoid using clingfilm, foil, plastic sandwich bags and mixed packaging (e.g. drink cartons).
These materials are not suitable for recycling (with the occasional exception of foil) and even though
the sandwich bags could be reused, they have a short lifetime and will end up in the bin sooner than a plastic tub.
What should I use to store food in a lunchbox?
You should try to reuse things that you already have in your kitchen. You could even use an old ice cream container as a lunchbox.
Collect little airtight containers or pots that dips, pasta sauces or olives come in and keep them to store lunchbox snacks. You can also put yoghurt into small pots and wash them after using (just make sure the lid is airtight, so the yoghurt doesn’t leak out). If you buy individual yoghurts, wash out the pots and keep them so your children can use them for craft projects.
Tin pots with plastic lids
Keep your eyes open for bargain containers, like metal ones with plastic lids that can be reused.
Paper bags and greaseproof paper
Buy big packets of things, like biscuits, rather than buying them individually wrapped. Similarly, avoid packaged cheese slices. Instead, wrap up food like biscuits and cheese in paper bags or greaseproof paper.
Some food, especially items of fruit, like plums, apples, and oranges, come pre-packaged when they could easily be sold loose. Try to buy fruit from your local market to avoid this unnecessary packaging. If you are going to chop fruit into bite-sized pieces, put them into small pots.
When you buy juice or water in small bottles, keep them so you can use them to store water and home-made smoothies. Try to avoid buying drinks in cartons because these are made from at least 3 materials – card, foil and plastic – and cannot be recycled as the process is too expensive.
Where your food comes from
Make your children aware of food miles by showing them on an atlas where their food has travelled from. The country of origin will usually appear on the packaging. Who has the packed lunch with the most food miles? Is it necessary to buy New Zealand apples when farmers grow them locally? Get your child to think about how they could have an altogether ‘greener’ packed lunch?
Many people in other countries work hard to produce the food we eat, yet they rarely get paid enough to feed their families. Next time you’re in a supermarket, have a look at fair trade products like fresh fruit, yoghurt, honey, sugar and jam and think about why we should try to buy these wherever possible.