Whether it’s back to school after the holidays, or you’re already halfway through term, coming up with new lunch ideas for kids to take to school every day can be a challenge. To help you plan tasty, healthy packed lunches that your kids will love, and that are easy to prepare, too, we’ve got six yummy suggestions and some top tips to get you started.
Let your little ones get stuck in to some easy finger food with this DIY dips and crudités lunchbox. Letting them choose their favourite vegetables and crackers will help them feel involved and get excited by their lunch; you could try oat cakes or rice crackers, cherry tomatoes, sugarsnaps or celery, and even add your own homemade dip if you have the time.
Although usually served hot, quesadillas are also great cold in a lunchbox as the tortillas hold their shape well and the cheese helps everything hold together. This cheesy quesadilla recipe uses Cheddar and spring onions, but you can ring the changes with other cheese and finely chopped veg or by adding cooked ham or chicken.
Instead of a rich and creamy dressing, this easy chicken pasta salad recipe has a light tomato and basil sauce, studded with peas for added veg. We love it with farfalle bow-shaped pasta, but kids could choose their favourite shape to make it personal to them.
Using cookie cutters to stamp out shaped sandwiches is a fun and creative way to make simple sarnies a bit more enticing. These turkey sandwiches work well as the cheese spread helps the stars stay together once cut, but experiment with spreads and thin-cut meats or cheese. You could also try using different cutters each time so that the kids have a surprise when they open their lunchbox.
Muffins make great packed lunches as they feel like a bit of a treat. Baking a batch, they can even be a fun baking project for the kids themselves on a Sunday afternoon – that way, several lunches for the week can be sorted in one go, or be frozen for another time. This tomato and bacon muffin recipe is simple and colourful, but you could easily make it veggie by replacing the bacon with some crumbled feta or strips of pepper.
Pitta pockets are easy to fill, easy to hold and even easier to eat, making them ideal for a lunch that’s ready in moments. You can’t wrong with these simple tuna mayo pittas – the key is to break up the creamy tuna with sweetcorn and lettuce for crunch and colour.
Most kids love a sweet treat, but you obviously wouldn’t want them to be munching on chocolate bars and biscuits every day. Try packing a fruit option to satisfy those sweet cravings: a small banana, a handful of berries or grapes, chopped melon or pineapple, or even some clementine segments dipped in chocolate for something a bit special. Dried fruit has more concentrated sweetness than fresh, so if you include it, limit to a small portion (about 30g or one heaped tablespoon).
If you do want to include a treat bake, these carrot cake squares and apricot flapjack recipes are both packed with fruit instead of the usual refined sugars, making them a good option to try making at home.
All the above recipes make one portion, but you can of course scale up if you’ve got lunches to sort for a number of kids. If you can, get ahead the night before so you’re ready to go in the morning – prepare as above and store in the fridge overnight, then pack in an insulated lunchbox or bag with an ice-pack. It can be a good idea to stock up on a variety of different sized containers so you can separate out dips, salads, crackers, fruit and veg; this will help everything stay as crisp and fresh as possible. Alternatively, try out your sandwich wrapping skills with baking paper.
We hope you’re inspired by the above ideas, but they are just a starting point for all the exciting lunchboxes you can prepare to keep your kids healthy and happy.
The key is to keep it interesting – this doesn’t have to mean lots of different ingredients or recipes, but just changing up how they are served and being creative with shapes and textures.
For example, try carrot sticks with a dip one day, then chopped into a beany salad on the next, grated into a cream cheese sandwich on another, peeled into ribbons as a crunchy snack, or even baked into muffins.
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