As the end of another school year is speeding towards us. In between the various awards evenings, sports day, proms and other things that always happen in these last few weeks, I am trying to get prepared for next year. It isn’t going so well as life keeps getting in the way. I have managed to get a few a things sorted in between the madness and top of my list this year is lunchboxes.
We definitely have what I can only describe as ‘lunchbox lethargy’. The same old lunches, the same old snacks. We need to change things around, add some colour, vary the routine. So these are few of my ideas for livening up those lunchboxes, inside and out.
Get the kids involved
Now my kids are getting older, I think they should be involved in the preparing of the lunchbox ceremony. Not only is it a job that they can easily help with, maybe by giving them some independence and ownership might encourage them to be a bit more adventurous.
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But even with younger children, it can be a positive to get them helping you with their lunchboxes. It is widely known that getting children involved in the kitchen not only gives them a valuable life skill but can also encourage them to eat a wider variety of foods. In this post from Parents.com about getting kids to eat better, they say:
“If your children become involved in choosing or preparing meals, they’ll be more interested in eating what they’ve created.”
It makes sense. As parents, we often get our kids involved in making sweet treats such as cakes, cookies and puddings which is great but it would be better to also add in savoury dishes and recipes involving new ingredients. So invest some time in planning some new lunchbox ideas and get creating together.
I often look longingly at pictures of cleverly crafted Bento lunchboxes on Pinterest. All of those different ingredients all creatively put together in different ways and with different themes. If you have never come across the Bento boxes before, they originated in Japan. The general idea is that the box contains a variety of small amounts of food with different textures, tastes and colours all tightly packed into a box in a way that is really appealing.
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It has become a hugely popular way of creating lunchboxes all over the world and there are lots of great accessories that you can buy in a whole range of different colours and themes. If you want some inspiration to make your own Bento-style lunch boxes you should look no further that Eats Amazing where there are endless brilliant ideas for lunches, snacks and more.
Invest in a good lunchbox
There are lots of fabulous lunch boxes that you can buy to make Bento-style lunch boxes more easily. Consisting of small compartments instead of one large space, it makes it easier to pop a range of smaller portions inside. Sistema has a new range of Bento boxes which have just launched. They all feature individual compartments to keep compartments separate along with a small pot with a lid for yoghurt or fruit.
Sistema has been a long time favourite of mine when it comes to lunch boxes and drinks bottles. They always have new and innovative products in their range which are available in a range of bright colours, BPA & Phthalate-free and dishwasher safe.
My daughter’s current favourite place to buy most things is Smiggle. Smiggle lunchboxes are her favourite and she is already lining up her choices for the next school year.
Her current favourite is the new Smiggle Says DIY Lunchbox (top left) which I have to say is a genius idea. It is a lunchbox that you can colour in and comes with six permanent markers, perfect for the job. She also likes the Blended Pop Up Container (top right) which is a great idea as it squashes flat when it is empty, so a great idea to save space. Another new addition is the Colourful Adventures Double Decker Lunchbox which is similar to this year’s box with two spacious zip compartments with a good sized carry handle. The final choice is the Rainbow Rad Compartment Lunchbox which is shaped like a traditional lunch box and has a smaller compartment on the front and a zipped bottle holder. As my daughter really struggles to make decisions, it could take a while to decide which one.
Add some fun to the lunchboxes
If the Bento boxes appeal to you, there are lots of simple ways of adding some fun to your lunchboxes. You can also invest in some tools to help, there are lots of things available. Sandwich stamps can make boring bread come to life with pictures and messages stamped onto it. If your child is a fan of boiled eggs, you can buy boiled egg moulds which turn the eggs into animals and more. Foodpicks are widely available in lots of different colours and styles and these can add some colourful fun to a child’s lunch as can tiny pots or bottles.
Of course, if you don’t want to spend a fortune, it is easy to stick to a budget. Cookie cutters are fairly inexpensive and you can use them to create different shaped sandwiches, fruit, cheese and so much more. Silicone or paper cupcake cases are also great to pop in with a small amount of food in each and it can look really effective.
Try some new snacks
All of my kids like snacking. Whether it is a quick boost when they get in from school, something when they chill out in the evening or something extra in their lunchbox. The problem with snacking is that is it all too easy to reach for the biscuits, cakes or crisps (and I should know as I’m just as bad!). Cutting out snacks altogether is tricky but you can help your children to make better snack choices.
If you make your own snacks, you can control what goes in them. One of my favourite recipes is flapjacks and although this one contains chocolate chips, you can also add in dried fruit to make them healthier.
My newest favourite is Yushoi. Baked pea snacks in a range of delicious flavours, these are the perfect snack for crisp lovers. Not only do they taste good but they have lots of other benefits too. Baked not fried, a 21g bag (sold in multipacks of 6), has less than 90 calories and there are no artificial nasties either. I absolutely love them, especially the soy and balsamic vinegar flavour.
We have been trying out a new range of healthy snacks from Calsway and I have to say that they are delicious so the fact that they are healthy too is a real bonus.
Made from natural, quality ingredients and designed in packaging that will keep the snacks fresh without the need for extra additives, Calsway have designed their range of snacks to be healthy and within a certain calorie range. That way, you know that you can eat them without taking in an excessive amount of calories. The Kids Lunch Box Rescue 12 Box, contains twelve packs of snacks (£24.99 from Amazon) with a range of ingredients.
The box contains;
- 2x 150 kcal Grandpa’s Crisps Apple and Cocoa (43,2 g each)
- 2x 150 kcal Raspberry Fruity stripes (46,3 g each)
- 2x 200 kcal Nana’s Crisps Beetroot (35,5 g each)
- 2x 150 kcal Tasty Nature Berries Mix (47,7 g each)
- 2x 150 kcal Rock’n’Roll Balls with Cranberries (42,7 g each)
- 2x 150 kcal Rock’n’Roll Balls with Apples (41,8 g each)
The raspberry fruity stripes, Grandpa’s crisps and Nana’s Crisps Beetroot are the favourites but all of the snacks taste amazing and really fill you up too. Find out more about the Calsway range here.
Another new product that has been a hit with the children is YogOaty, the delicious new yoghurt and oat pouches from premium milkshake brand, Shaken Udder.
Made using British yoghurt, real fruit, and wholesome oats, YogOaty is a silky smooth product with totally no bits that is 100% natural, with no added sugar. The new YogOaty pouches come in three yummy flavours: Mega Mango & Peach, Smashing Strawberry & Banana and Awesome Apricot & Vanilla.
Each 70g pouch is packed with protein and slow-release energy oats, making YogOaty a fun, easy and nutritious breakfast, on-the-go snack, or lunchbox addition. Plus, parents can be safe in the knowledge that they are giving their kids a really wholesome snack that they’ll love. YogOaty will be available in 70g pouches from Tesco. RRP 85p-£1.20. Find out more on the Shaken Udder website.
Always give them something you know they will eat
One thing I wouldn’t recommend with lunches is giving them a whole new box of foods. Of course, if you have a child who eats anything and everything, that might work but generally it is better to introduce new things one at a time. When it comes to lunchtimes, kids are often tired and hungry after a busy morning. A good lunch will give them a well-earned boost to get them through the afternoon. So whatever you decide to give them, make sure there is something in their lunchbox that you know you will eat and then you can rest easy that they won’t be starving and lethargic all afternoon.
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Step away from the bread
I love bread but there is something about having sandwiches every single day that can put me off bread for a while. Kids are exactly the same. Sandwiches can be amazing of course because you can have such a variety of fillings, savoury or sweet. But with so many bread alternatives available, it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to vary things from time to time.
If you want to keep to a similar formula, try sandwich thins or pitta bread with a filling. Crackers are a nice change, I usually put some in with a pot of butter (don’t butter them beforehand as they go really soggy) and some toppings. My kids like bagels and brioche buns for a nice change or you could put in a pasta or rice salad.
If your children are firmly attached to their sandwiches, why not cut out different shapes or try different types of bread to mix things up a little.
Opt for easy to eat foods
Whatever options you decide for the lunches, remember that most kids want to eat pretty quickly and get outside to have a play. Don’t overload lunchboxes, they need a good meal but not a twelve-course banquet. I always remember seeing the lunchboxes of some of the children who were at nursery with my daughter and even aged three and four, some of the children had a ridiculous amount of food for one person. The other point is to make it easy to eat. We did experiment one year with soup in a small flask but it turned out to be too tricky to manage and very messy when one day they didn’t shut the flask properly.
Don’t forget the drinks
I have always tried to avoid giving my children drinks that contain too much sugar. That can be easier said than done and I have one who is a complete juice addict. We have worked hard with him to get him to drink more water and slowly added more and more water to any fruit juice he has so that now his juice drinks are two-thirds water.
If your child won’t drink water, try giving them drinks with really low or no added sugar or choose really small cartons so that you are limiting the amount of sugar. I am loving the new range of 15oml juice cartons from Tesco as they are smaller and lower in calories, perfect for lunchboxes.
A new drinks bottle can also be a great encouragement to get children drinking more. My daughter is loving her new Tritan Swift bottle from Sistema. It is the perfect size to take to school and it is leakproof and shatterproof. It has a nice design and can work well as a lunchtime drink and for use throughout the day.
And why not pop some fruit in for extra flavour and goodness?
The new Sistema Tritan Swift bottles are available in a variety of colours (SRP £8.99). They are made of Tritan so they are shatterproof and leak proof plus they are BPA and Phthalate free and dishwasher safe.
Pop onto Pinterest
Pinterest is my favourite place for inspiration and there are quite literally thousands of ideas for lunchboxes on there. Check out my board below or just search for recipe ideas, lunchbox inspiration or handy tips as there is so much available that you are bound to find some inspiration for interesting lunchboxes.