Making school packed lunches interesting

The subject of school lunches has been much in the news lately, with a lot of emphasis on the lack of healthy, nutritious food in too many cases.  Many parents who are concerned about their kids’ health and eating habits are opting to send a packed lunch with a child heading off to school.  Also, parents are looking at an average of £2 per day per kid for the school lunch, so saving money is another big factor.

The biggest problem with this sensible solution is twofold.  First there’s the time and planning required to put together an acceptable lunchbox, and second there’s the difficulty of dealing with kids’ tendency to prefer the ubiquitous fast food and pre-packaged snacks over good stuff like veggies and fruits.  Sending along a good nutritious lunch, only to have it tossed in the trash bin or returned in a state past recognition is discouraging, to say the least.

The idea is to pack something that is tasty and interesting, even if your kid claims the only thing he or she will eat is a cheese sandwich.  There are some useful tips on how to do this and still save yourself a lot of time, energy and money; pick a couple and try them out.  You may be happily surprised.

In the case of sandwiches: make them bite size with no crusts.  It’s amazing how much more interesting a bunch of mini-sandwiches are for kids than the ordinary two-slice-with-something-in-the-middle.  You can also use different breads such as focaccia made with olive oil, pita bread or maybe homemade rolls.  As an alternative to the sandwich, do a wrap or perhaps an individual quiche.

Another trick with sandwiches is to add a bit of green and crunchy vegetable such as arugula, shredded green onions, cress or bean sprouts.  You don’t need anything exotic; lots of these nourishing additions can be grown on your kitchen windowsill.

Getting kids to eat fruit shouldn’t be a problem if you vary the offerings and keep it interesting.  A kiwi or passion fruit, cut in half with a spoon accompanying, or a handful of in-season berries, cubes of melon or an orange cut into bite size chunks are good possibilities.  For more variety make a small fruit salad.

Don’t forget leftovers, either.  If you had a nice casserole or curry or pasta bake for dinner, save some for the lunchbox.  If your kids like it for dinner, chances are they’ll like it just as well for lunch, either cold or heated up if the facilities are provided.

Kids do want their treats, and most of them are delighted to help if you make them yourself.  This is a great chance to get kids involved in the kitchen and send them off with a homemade brownie or cake that’s much better for them than Twinkies, and tastier to boot.