Healthy School Lunch Ideas

Hard to believe it’s back to school time already! Although it is a shame to see the end of the summer holidays, I am ready to welcome back some more routine into our family life and imagine many of you are feeling the same.

Along with routine going out the window over the summer, there were also days (and many of them!) where healthy eating went too, especially when cousins and friends were around. There were days when I took delight and comfort in the convenience of a tin of beans, chips or a tub of hummus!

So, along with getting uniforms and books ready, it’s time for many of us to start thinking about school lunches and how we can get the fine balance of healthy lunches …that are actually eaten.

In this blog I am going to share some lunch ideas and a few recipes aswell to get you going, along with some tips that have worked for us to encourage our kids to eat more healthily.

Healthy lunch ideas:

  • Sandwiches are always a popular choice for packed lunches, try to move beyond the traditional fillings to include healthier options such as hummus, bean spreads or tofu spread. Try to stay away from white bread and choose wholegrain options. Pitta bread is also a handy option and works well with falafels. Also try to gradually include some salad vegetables such as tomato, cucumber, lettuce or even spinach leaves. (I have included a hummus recipe below for you to try)
  • Always try to include at least one fruit and one vegetable as snacks. Peel or chop the fruit in advance as your child will be more likely to eat it if it is ready to grab and go. Veggie sticks are very handy snacks and can be made from carrot, cucumber, pepper or celery. Sugarsnap peas are handy stick sized snacks too.
  • Soups are great for the winter months and are easy for little ones to eat. You can try a range of veggies soups and include some protein for added nutrition. Protein can easily be added by including beans, lentils or tahini.
  • Burritos are popular in my house – again they are nutritious and if wrapped tightly and cut in half are easy for little hands to manage. Simpe fillings like beans and rice with a little avocado are great. I have included a recipe below for you to try.
  • Pasta, rice, quinoa or couscous are all handy for lunches – just add some veggies or beans and you can have a cold salad or warm dish.
  • Left-overs from dinners – this can be handy on the days you don’t have a lot of time. I wouldn’t do it too regularly though as variety is important. What you can do is freeze any small portions from dinner and use them for luches at a later date.

 

Tips for getting your kids to actually eat healthy lunches!:

Involve your children in deciding what they want for lunch. We sit down as a family on a Sunday and ask the kids what they would like for their lunch – we provide options and they select. This way they feel more involved and more likely to eat it. As they get older you can also include them in the prep of the lunch.

Persevere, yes, I know, there is nothing more frustrating that opening the lunch box at the end of the school day to see the meal you have lovingly prepared the night before is untouched. Don’t lose heart though as with kids they might not be interested today but could easily be the next day or the next week. Don’t give up after the first try.

Peer pressure can work both ways with food. Kids can be easily influenced by each other so use that to your advantage when you can if you have friends or cousins around that are good eaters. I have definitely seen this with my kids and remember well my 4 year old deciding she like pesto because her cousins did.

Encourage tasting – even if your child feels they don’t like a particular food, I would always encourage them to at least taste. That way the taste buds are being stimulated and experience variety and the more they explore new tastes the more likely they are to actually eat it one day.

Get creative – this I have found can make a big difference to whether my kids eat something or not. It is amazing how more willing they are to eat a plate of veg if they are arranged in a smiley face! Food presentation is not something we often thing about with kids but makes a big difference. Give a child a sliced courgette and they may not try it, slice it for dipping and probably more likely, spiralize it so it looks like fun and they want more. Places like Home Store and More and TK Maxx often have fun little kitchen gadgets that can make all the difference, things like apple slicers, pineapple corers, banana slicers and spiralizers.

– Try to offer a variety of foods – offer a range of colours, flavours, textures to make food more interesting and enjoyable. Aim to get in the colours of the rainbow over the week.

– Get good quality snack containers, flasks, lunch boxes and water bottles. Having containers that are easy to open and close and water bottles that are easy to drink from and spill proof all make it easier for your kids to want to use them.

Food Dudes is a great initiative by the HSE that makes eating fruit and veg fun for kids in the school environment. If your school hasn’t run this programme in your school I highly recommend you mention it to them and see if they will run it.

– If all else fails, I find smoothies and soups are great ways to ensure your kids are getting their 5 plus a day. You can add all kinds of goodness to both of them. Smoothies can be great in the morning or as a snack after school and soups make for great lunches in the winter months.

– Finally, encourage your child to leave their water bottle on their desk so they can sip from it regularly throughout the day.

 

A few recipes to get you started:

Hummus

Butternut Squash soup

Dahl and Rice

Bean Burritos