Between organising school uniforms and after-school activities, it is easy to leave the kids’ lunch boxes until the last minute.
Here are our top tips and tricks for planning and preparing lunches that will ensure a stress-free start to the day.
Undue stress on a busy morning and poor food choices are often deflected when a plan is in place.
It is good practice to start getting into the habit of cutting up your fruit or vegetables the night before or at the beginning of the week and separating them into individual, easy-to-grab containers.
Then, when it is a busy morning, a healthy snack or lunch choice is easy and already prepared. Not only can this be done with fruit and veggies but it’s easy to do with other snack options like pretzels, popcorn or crackers so they can easily be added to lunches.
Make fruit and veggies fun
Spice up fruit and veggies by packing a dip with them. Low-fat yoghurt or pudding is great with strawberries and melons. Try different fruits with different textures so children do not get bored. Intermix crunchy apples with juicy oranges.
Making fruit salad is a great way to make fruit fun. Mix together sweet fruits like apples, bananas and pears with acidic fruits like oranges and pineapples.
Kids can try different fruit combinations, and the acidic juices will help prevent the fruit from turning brown.
Choose 100% juice
Buy juices with little added sugar or sweeteners. Avoid juices that have sugars or calorific sweeteners listed as the first ingredient.
Many juices are only 10% or 20% juice and contain a lot of unnecessary sugars. Check juice box labels and try to buy products that are 100% juice.
Health experts suggest that school-aged kids drink between six to eight cups of water a day (even more in hot weather or if their activity level is high). Let your children pick out their favourite water bottle and encourage them to drink the whole thing at least twice at school.
If the “flavour” of water is too boring for them, throw in a few pieces of frozen fruit to sweeten it up – and keep it cooler.
Get the kids involved
Do you cook with your kids? It may seem overwhelming, but it does not have to be stressful. Getting your children involved in meal preparation not only provides valuable skills and education, it also exposes them to different foods.
When planning lunch box ideas for the week, sit down with your kids and let them contribute ideas. This will ensure they will enjoy their meals more and actually eat them.
When preparing food, get the kids involved with the washing, sorting and assembling of ingredients. Also, encourage the kids to help you pack their lunch boxes. This can be an activity that gets them excited about their lunches.
Make a budget
If a lunch plan is not in place, it is easy to run and grab lunch from a nearby cafe or petrol station, but bringing lunch can also help stretch your monthly budget. Prepare leftovers in small ,manageable containers and reheat them the next day.
By not buying food each day, you will notice savings on the other end of the wallet. Whether you are planning for the kids or yourself, packing a lunch for school or work does not need to be a daunting task. It can be enjoyable and a good habit to start.
Prepare the night before
Sandwiches can be made the night before and still taste great the next day, but ensure that those filled with a protein are refrigerated.
If you prefer making them on the day, then prepare fillings such as chicken, tuna, or egg-mayo in advance. A time-saving tip for lunch preparation is to also keep grated or sliced cheese and sliced deli meats on hand.
Finish with something sweet
Teach your kids the importance of moderation by packing a sweet treat with their meals. These behaviours will continue through adolescence and adulthood and help your child have a healthy relationship with food as they age.