There is no doubt – mornings are chaotic! It’s usually when school holidays roll around that you realise what a relief it is to have a break from the lunchbox madness.
If you’re looking for a really simple guide to pack a healthy lunchbox – the kind your kids will actually want to eat – then try this easy “3,2,1-go” method. It goes something like this…
Each lunchbox you pack should include:
for excelling at anything and everything (fruits AND veggies)
fresh fruit, frozen berries, fruit salad, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, mushrooms, snow peas, fresh peas, baby carrots, red capsicum, celery sticks, spinach
2 Energy foods
such as grains for energy and concentration
wholegrains including brown or grainy bread, rolls, pita, mountain bread wraps, Vita Weat or Cruskit crackers, rice, pasta, popcorn
1 Strength food
such as protein for muscle growth and strength
roast meats, beans, hummus dip, boiled egg, fish and/or low fat milk, cheese, yoghurt, tzatziki dip
A healthy lunchbox is all about balance, but don’t too get too caught up with the numbers. It should be roughly 3 serves of fruit and veg to 2 slices of bread and 1 serve of protein/dairy. If your child is in a growth spurt it might be 5, 3, 2 and that’s OK. Just make sure you have all the boxes ticked… it is only a problem if there are no colors, or no energy or strength food.
321-Go is a quick check for packing lunch boxes. Components can be combined as you like and they are hungrier, feel free to give them some extra 3,2 or 1..
Some examples of lunchboxes I’d prepare for my kids:
3 Colors + 2 Energy + 1 Strength
Apple + Celery + Carrot + Vegemite sandwich + Cheese stick
Grapes + Tomato + Spaghetti bolognese
Fruit salad + Tuna, cucumber and lettuce roll
Strawberries + Carrots + Avocado crackers + Tztatziki dip
Banana + Capsicum + Cucumber + Popcorn + Chicken wrap
Mandarin + Snow peas + Cheese and tomato pita + boiled egg
321-Go works best and will reduce the morning chaos if you’re a little organised in advance. If you can stock your cupboards and fridge with the items you need for the week this is a great advantage (have a weekend list-making session with your kids). You can use your freezer to pre-make and store sandwiches, muffins, scrolls, raisin bread, cookies and frozen berries. Also, buy a few things in bulk as a back up plan for when you run out of fresh ingredients. You can never have too many wholegrain crackers, dried fruit or tinned fruit, beans or tuna.
Remember, kids like routine. A healthy lunchbox can be repeated if kids are happy. If they get bored, change it a little.
OK, so you’ve packed a healthy lunchbox – now to make sure the contents end up in their bellies and not the bin!
How do you do this? The two key ideas are:
- Make it relevant to them
- Get your kids involved
Start by explaining to your kids why they need 3,2 and 1. And then personalise it by telling each child why it is important to him.
3 Colours are the secret to success. Whatever your child likes or is good at, different coloured fruits and veg will help them succeed.
2 Energy grains give them energy to play, concentrate and learn.
1 Strength food keeps muscles and bones strong so they can run fast, jump high, kick a footy or spin at dance practice.
Involve your kids and let them make choices.
Ask your kids which of 3, 2 or 1 they would like and give them a range of healthy options to choose from – giving your child a choice is very powerful.
- Would you like apple or banana today?
- Leftovers, wraps or crackers?
- Cucumber and capsicum in your sandwich, or on the side?
If they choose foods that don’t fit 321-go then oops…try again to fit the pattern.
It also helps to get feedback from your child. When they come home, ask about their lunch. Did they have enough time to eat? Was it still yummy at lunchtime? Could it be held in one hand while they played?
Here is one of my favourite lunchbox recipes- Muesli cookies. These cookies can be eaten fresh or freeze them and pop a frozen cookie in your child’s lunch box will defrost by snack time.