I’ve had a bit of lunchbox envy when I have seen what creative ideas my own friends have included in their kids lunchbox so I thought I would write about it just in case you needed some inspiration! (As we all do!) When it comes to kids lunch boxes, we need things that are easy to transport, healthy and uses what is in your pantry. When it comes to lunch we want our kids to be exposed to healthy food all day long.

As per usual, we love ‘rules’. Rules give us an easy to remember theme to follow and as with most rules, we sometimes like to break them which is ok too, we just revert back to them the following day, depending on what’s in the house.

So let’s look at the kids lunchbox prototype:

  • 3 veg and 2 fruit {5+ a day}
  • Carbohydrate
  • Protein
  • Fat

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail and with some ideas attached to get you started:

3 veg and 2 fruit – This follows the 5+ a day recommendation by the Ministry of Health which means you are getting health into your kids throughout the day, no need to save all of those veges for dinner time when kids may or may not be hungry. Some vegetable ideas are cucumber, tomatoes, capsicum, roast kumara, carrot, brocolli and cauliflower florets. Fruits can be seasonal and may include winter fruits like kiwifruit, oranges, mandarins, apples, tangarines, tamarillo’s and summer fruits such as berries, peaches, nectarines, apricots & plums. Autumn fruits include grapes, apples & pears. Bananas, melons and pineapple are a nice tropical addition between seasons. Try to give seasonal variety and not give the same fruit and veg very week. It’s also far cheaper to buy seasonal fruit and veg in season.

Carbohydrate – So this includes the good old sandwhich, crackers and roasted kumara or potato leftovers. Dried fruit such as raisins, figs, dates, prunes and dried apricots or apples are a great addition. Seaweed sheets are a yummy option too with plenty of fibre. Most carbohydrates are a good source of fibre so long as you stick to wholemeal bread and wholemeal crackers and don’t forget all fruit and veg are also carbohydrate containing. You can give them a biscuit or slice once in a while as a treat.

Protein – So this includes dried meats that you can put in a sandwhich e.g. chicken, beef, lamb, ham or salami, plus cheese or egg. A hard boiled egg is easy to do, travels well and is easy to peel and eat. Nuts and seeds can be eaten whole or made into museli bars or energy balls, and go well with dried fruit. Yoghurt is also a nice treat a couple of times a week, frozen berries can be added to yoghurt too which will have melted by lunchtime – yum! Don’t forget avocado, mushrooms, beans and peas are also protein foods so have fun with these foods too, and yes, you can pull beans straight out of a can!

Fats – Fats are a necessary part of our diet especially for growing kids brains – fats can easily be added to a sandwich, either butter or olive oil lathered over bread, but dont forget too that meats, especially salami are a great source of fat for kids. Yogurt contains fat (so long as you don’t buy low fat versions) as do nuts and seeds.

Here is an example of an all day lunchbox

You can make specific changes to suit your dietry needs i.e. gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian. It doesnt have to be stressful, you can include leftovers from the night before, and whatever is in the pantry. It doesn’t have to be perfect daily, kids will survive! The fruit bowl won’t be as good the day before shopping day as it is the day after so if your kids lunchbox doesnt match the rules everytime dont worry! You are at least providing your kids with healthy options on a consistent basis. If they dont eat it, they eventually will, one thing I do know about kids is when they get hungry – they eat.

Keep up the good work mums and dads – you are growing our future!

Simone Reddington is the founder of the Apothecary, a Medical Herbalist and thinker. She holds a degree in Psychology and is a professional member of the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists.