School lunch ideas: how to pack the perfect school lunch

Great ideas for packing the perfect school lunch that your children will enjoy eating.

June 01 2016

Encourage your children with a protein choice such as ham, chicken, canned fish, roast meat, hummus, egg or low-fat cheese. Avoid devon and chicken or turkey roll, as they’re usually high in fat and very high in salt. Protein is important for their growth, plus it helps to keep hunger pangs at bay for longer.

Healthy sandwich fillings
★ Avocado, chicken and salad.
★ Ham, hummus and tabouli.
★ Egg, cucumber and lettuce.
★ Canned tuna, cheese and salad.
★ Roast beef, tomato and snow pea sprouts or lettuce.
★ Banana, ricotta cheese and sultanas.
★ Light cream cheese, celery and grated carrot.
★ Homemade meat patties or rissole, tomato sauce and lettuce.

Soggy Free Sandwiches
There is nothing worse than a soggy sandwich. Consider these tips for keeping bread dry and fillings crisp:
★ Dry salad vegetables well.
★ Layer tomato between cheese, meat or lettuce.
★ Spread bread with margarine, mayonnaise, cream cheese, low-fat cheese spread or ricotta cheese to protect it from moisture.
★ For older children you could package the moist sandwich ingredients into a zip-lock bag or container to be assembled at lunch time.

Stay Cool
Lunch needs to stay cool no matter what the time of year. If you haven’t got a super-duper lunch bag/box with its own cold brick, try these ways to keep the temperature down:
★ Use frozen bread.
★ Freeze sandwiches prepared the night before (if the filling permits).
★ Freeze water, milk drinks or yoghurt in the hotter months.
★ Invest in small non-toxic gel packs to freeze and add to lunch boxes.

Snack Attack
Give the crinkly packets a miss and try these healthy snack choices instead:
★ Home-popped popcorn.
★ Pieces of fruit – cut into pieces if necessary.
★ Dry breakfast cereal.
★ Pretzels.
★ Crackers with sliced cheese or cheese stick.
★ Vegie sticks and salsa dip.
★ Celery sticks spread with cream cheese.
★ Slice of raisin bread pre-spread with margarine.
★ Pikelets.
★ Snack pack of fruit.
★ Tub of yoghurt.
★ Grissini sticks.

Hold the bread
For the ‘I hate sandwiches’ brigade or a fun change for the rest, pull out the little containers and try these non-bread ideas:
★ Tuna or salmon rissoles with salsa dip and a bag of salad. 
★ Lamb cutlet, couscous salad and cherry tomatoes.
★ Hard-boiled egg, potato salad and vegie sticks.
★ Barbecued chicken and pasta salad.
★ Cheese slices, wholegrain crackers and a bag of salad.
★ Chicken drumettes, corn on the cob and tabouli.
★ Baked beans, cheese and vegie sticks.

Cheats tricks
Lunch doesn’t have to be a big effort to be nutritious. Leftovers from last night’s BBQ chicken are great with veggie sticks or a small bag of salad and a slice of bread, as are sausages, rissoles or meat balls, and chicken or veal schnitzel – just make sure to cook some extra.

All the food groups
What goes into a lunch box needs to sustain children for most of the day. To do this, you need a lunch box that is balanced and covers the food groups important for growth and development. 
★ Carbs for energy. Don’t get too hung-up on whether to use white or wholegrain. All bread types are great. Go for a fibre-increased white if you can’t vary it with wholegrain or wholemeal occasionally.
★ Dairy for bones and teeth. Yoghurt, cheese or milk in the lunch box every day is a good habit. These foods are always going to be healthier than most other ready-prepared snacks.
★ Protein for growth. Try to include protein as one of their sandwich fillings, or opt for a high-protein dairy snack instead.
★ Fruit and vegies. Two serves of fruit and five of vegetables is the goal for healthy children. Fresh is always best, but canned or dried fruit are good alternatives. Avoid fruit bars, straps and leathers, as nutritionally they don’t come close to the real thing.

Keep them hydrated
There is nothing like water to quench a thirst, so make sure there’s always a water bottle handy in your little one’s bag. Milk makes a nutritious snack or addition to lunch – freeze it in summer and it will be icy cold when they want it. Steer clear of juice, cordial or soft drinks. They contribute little other than extra sugar.