If you’re a parent, you know the drill: you spend hours shopping for and preparing a healthy, balanced lunchbox for your child to take to school… only to have it come home barely touched. So what’s the trick to getting kids to actually eat the lunch you pack for them?
It’s more than just putting together an exciting menu. Studies have shown that children are more likely to show an interest in eating food if they’ve been involved in choosing, and planning, the lunchbox.
Start with the basics
Even fussy eaters can be persuaded to try their lunch if it comes in a cool lunchbox they’ve helped choose themselves – perhaps even one with their favourite cartoon character on it. Opt for a lunchbox that is leak proof and has a number of inner compartments for convenient packing. You can also consider adding a refreezable ice pack to help keep everything cool until break time.
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We eat with our eyes
Food that looks good will always be more appealing. Try easy hacks for presenting food in a more visual way – sandwich stamps or shape cutters immediately turn an ordinary sarmie into something special, you can use cookie cutters to slice fruit and vegetables into interesting shapes or make ‘faces’ on food using slices of cucumber, tomato, cheese or grapes. Think: cucumber slices shaped like a caterpillar with a cheese smile, raisins for feet and grape slices for eyes.
Tick the right nutrition boxes
In order to create a balanced lunchbox, try to add something from each of the five food groups – that means a protein like yoghurt or cold meats, starch like a wrap, wholewheat bread or pasta, healthy (preferably plant-based) fats like nuts or seeds, vegetables and fruit.
Be drinks smart
Avoid caffeinated or carbonated beverages and choose something healthy that will hydrate your child and provide additional vitamins. Top choices are water and fruit juice – or fruit juice diluted with water.
Think about the little extras
If your child has a tough day ahead at school – perhaps they have a maths test or a sports match they’re nervous about – they may appreciate a hand-written note reminding them that you love and support them.
You can also print then cut out a few jokes or fun quotes and keep them in a drawer in the kitchen – simply pop one into their lunchbox when you assemble it.
ALSO READ: 7 tasty (and easy) lunchbox ideas for kids
Healthy lunchbox ideas the kids will love
- Guacamole dip with cucumber, carrot sticks and mini corn
- Savoury muffins – experiment with flavours like ham and corn or carrot and zucchini
- Seed loaf sandwich with ham, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise
- Wraps or mini pitas with tuna, mayo and cucumber
- Fruit salad skewers
- Wholewheat pasta with basil pesto and chicken
- Fruit and veggie smoothie
- Yoghurt tubes can be frozen and double up as ice packs
- Biltong, dried fruit, seeds and nuts are great as snacks
- Soup or curry can easily be served in a flask to keep it warm until break
- Meatball and vegetable skewers
- Egg muffin-cup frittatas are a smart way to pack in ‘hidden’ veg
- Zucchini fritters
- Pasta salad looks great when layered in a jar
- Cottage cheese with tomato and cucumber, served with sliced pita bread to dip
- Cheese, cucumber and tomato skewers
- Homemade muesli bars
- Pretzels with nut butter for dipping
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