Lesson 7: Lunch Boxes for Big and Little Kids (Plus, Meal Plan #3)
Ah, the dreaded lunchbox - but it SO doesn’t need to be. In this topic we endeavour to make approaching the lunch box task, the simplest it’s ever been!
Here's what we'll cover:
- Interview with Jenny Tschiesche of The Lunchbox Doctor
- Our lunch box tricks
- How to ensure variety in lunch boxes
- Tools of the Lunch Box trade
- Sample lunch boxes
- Some extra lunch box friendly recipes for inspiration
- Meal Plan #3
Are any of these reasons for dreading lunch box prep resonating with you?
- You get to the morning and you feel like there’s nothing to put in there
- You feel uninspired, and you know for a fact from their lovely honesty, that your kids are too
- You know you want to pack less processed carbs and packets in there, but they’re your security blanket stocking fillers, and quite frankly it terrifies you to think of how you’re going to make a lunch box ‘from scratch’
- You feel like you scramble around frantically without the time to put something decent together
- You know most of it is going to come back to you at the end of the day and you wonder why you bother
Our strategy for the lunch box situation to be simple and stress free, is to plan well with a view to always having supplies at hand and make time OTHER THAN THE EARLY MORNING OF SCHOOL to be lunch box ready. Yes, we’re looking at YOU (and us sometimes too, nobody’s perfect)
We’re determined for our lunch box to also not to be an additive-laden, plastic filled packaging festival. The eco message of trying to use less plastic is often a surprise win for getting less packets across the line - teaching them a simple thing about how bits of plastic is killing our wild life / marine life can mean they quite happily do away with it and become little champions for change.
Look at this amazing award Alexx won - erm we mean, her SON won. “I was so proud of myself, um, HIM ;-)”
Brenda chats with Jenny Tschiesche aka the Lunchbox Doctor
Here's the PRINTABLE LUNCHBOX BINGO Jenny mentions - Don't overthink it. Just use it as a tool to make choosing an assortment of foods fun with your child if you're in a lunch box funk.
Our lunch box tricks that we always keep up our sleeve
- Bake 2 - 3 treats a fortnight on rotation and freeze double batches to make light work for the busy.
- Hard boil a bunch of eggs at the start of the week / while you’re making Sunday night dinner, so they can live in a bowl and be at the ready.
- Always have crudité veggies at hand – capsicum, carrot, cucumber, celery and celery sticks and cherry tomatoes ...
- Always cook too many meatballs, sausages, burger patties, chicken nuggets or drumsticks and use them for lunch boxes the next day. These nourishing meats with healthy fats and protein that burn slower are great at lunch time, resulting in more balanced blood sugar levels – one of the key things that affects concentration as that afternoon rolls.
- Always cook too much roast veg like sweet potato or pumpkin – so yummy the next day in chunks.
- Make 2 small batches of various ‘dip’. Can be as simple as leftover mashed sweet potato or smashed avocado with sea salt. Simple, simple stuff. Here is delicious recipe for hummus from Brenda.
- A simple whole piece of apple, a handful of strawberries, banana.
- Cubed, unprocessed cheese or a few olives.
- Some sort of savoury home made muffin or a wrap with the leftover meat and shredded carrot / lettuce / avocado.
- Paté with crackers to enjoy it.
- Then random rotating luxuries to keep things in discovery mode, like the odd little jar of home made popcorn, or organic ham, or a hot pot in an insulated container or a seasonal fruit or leftover home made cupcake from the weekend, little jar of chia pudding, a smoothie or nourishing thick shake or pressed veggie juice, frozen meals that defrosts over the morning and is super cold and yummy…
- Why no sandwich in the suggestions? Yes, a sandwich might appear on quality bread or wrap that’s additive free BUT make sure you pack it full of good stuff, for the simple fact that the energy is too quick burning, compared to healthy proteins and wide nutritional variety at lunch time. Wraps are great as there’s more emphasis on the nutrient variety with all the fillings!
The simple way to ensure variety in your kid's lunch box
The best way to celebrate variety at lunch, is to stop with the stress. If we move to a ‘bento box’ approach, then the pressure’s off for large amounts of any one thing, or worrying about ‘if they’re getting everything’ It becomes super easy to pop a whole bunch of random things for them to discover in their lunch boxes. This keeps the kids interested too, so everyone wins with the ‘little bit of that, little bit of that’ approach.
To make it super easy, we’ve created a list of various types of foods with the ‘something old, new, borrowed or blue’ philosophy, to create variety and constant inspiration. This super simple guide will keep things feeling fresh and tasting appealing, as we move through flavours, textures and food styles too. Aim to include 5 different styles each day as a minimum and don’t do more than 2 of one of them in one lunch box (ie don’t fill a lunchbox with loads of crudités and a custard and that’s it… “Variety is the spice of life” became such a well known expression for a reason and your kids will love it!)
Use this list as a loose guide to shop from each week and ensure different things are being picked week on week in the shopping basket, to keep rotating through the flavours and textures.
- Crudités (cucumber, carrot, capsicum, fennel, green beans, snow peas. Cut in varied shapes when using to create visual variety, so wheels, sticks etc)
- Small apple, half a banana (allows room for something else by not making it a whole), mandarin, nashi pear, peach, nectarine, plum or other seasonal fruit.
Pro tip: Try not to make it the same raw stuff all week. Alexx couldn’t look at or smell a mandarin without wanting to hurl for about 15 years after I left school. Couldn’t even. Just no.
Something Baked / Sweet/Savoury
(preferably batch cooked WITH the kids and with their say on ‘what’)
Always make more than you will serve at dinner. Always.
- Leftover baked veggies
- Leftover roast meats, quiche or frittatas
Something super tasty and savoury
- Salami / saucisson olives
- Cheddar (organic if possibly)
- Organic ham
- Handful of plain potato chips (Chipman is a great brand, additive free option)
- Toasted seed clusters
- Trail mix
- Chia Pudding
- Ham off the bone from the butcher (less to no preservatives when bought like this as opposed to packet ham)
- Chicken mayo ‘filling / dip’
- Beef jerky
Freeze smoothies, custards, chia puddings and yoghurt the night before. If it’s in glass, leave a good inch off from the top of the lid to allow for liquid expansion without breaking the glass. This way it will keep things fresh in the box as it melts and you have it ready for lunch time.
Serve leftovers in a hot pot for a delicious, hot lunch option such as casseroles, soups, slow cooker meals or sausages and mash. Substantial leftovers are just brilliant for bigger kids into the teen years. So, you could pack a bento box type lunch with lots of discovery bits AND a hot pot for recess and main lunch respectively. Brenda has a helpful blog post on 10 Warm and Hot Meals to Pack for School Lunches.
Tools of the Lunch Box Trade
Just a little note on the type of lunchbox to use. It’s easy to “think outside the lunchbox” when you use a variety of options for your kid’s lunchbox to create that ‘bento’ feel - lots of little sections and tastes for them to explore. The type of lunchbox itself can encourage variety, creativity and presents the food in an appealing way.
You want us to spend how much on a lunch box!?
BUY WELL… teach the kids the value of looking after something. What a skill to start them off in life with! NOTE: In opting for stainless steel when you can, you avoid exposure to hormone-disrupting phthalates,
BPA, BPS, PVC, DIOXANE… the list goes on. It’s not to say all plastic boxes are evil as some are better than others, and some are fine for short-term use. Stainless is undeniably more reliably non-toxic and more durable as a long-term option. Detox the lunch box with these ones forever more and check out Biome for loads of other options too.
Sample Lunch Boxes
Chicken mayo and celery mix with crackers, dried organic apple, roast sweet potato and broccoli leftovers and fresh tomato. This was lunch, and recess was chicken pasta hot pot leftovers reheated well and popped into an insulated container.
Older child than a 6 year old? Fill it to the brim. Add a single tub of something else like a few meatballs, or a big chunk of frittata.
2 little pate cracker stacks, 1/2 a banana, carrot, capsicum, fresh apple and leftover roast potato and chicken. Recess was buttered popcorn and celery sticks
Fresh apple, avocado crackers, cucumber wheels, chicken celery mayo crackers, 1/2 a banana. Recess was a big coconut cupcake with blueberries in it.
Soups are great for sipping and getting on with playing and like smoothies, you can jam so much goodness in them, into an easily enjoyed package! Muffins and crudités served along side make for a perfect mix!
Below we have a lunchbox with egg muffins, carrot wheels to dip into guacamole, fruit salad and a few dark leafies. Look at that nutrition!
Here’s an example of a recess for a busy older child with a slice, crackers, cucumbers / carrots (give kids a choice and get them cutting it themselves!), ham and cheese. Plastic lunch boxes for a few hours won’t be of any harm. If you have plastic ones like this, relax. Use until you want to switch and then re-use these as lego sorters or craft tidy boxes or fish tackle.
Here are some more recipes for extra ideas:
Here is Brenda's popular lunchbox ebook, Easy Wholefood Lunchboxes, full of kid tested and approved, nourishing recipes!
And here's Georgia from Well Nourished's wonderful eBook full of lunchbox inspiration. We have a special code for you - THRIVE10 to give you 10% off.
And there you have it. A super simple approach to creating easy to love lunches for your kids at home or at school. Adjust portions as needed for different ages and most importantly, get your kids involved in picking their favourites from the style-of-food categories, get them cutting or baking… The interest will increase and they’re far less likely to waste something they had a hand in making themselves.
We can’t wait to see your lunchbox inspiration on Facebook and Instagram – #thrivinghappykids is our hashtag.
Meal Plan #3
And yes - time for another meal plan release.
You'll find all the recipes for this week in the original recipe booklets. We've linked to them below to make it super easy for you:
Alexx and Brenda x
© Thrive 2020
Disclaimer: This eCourse contains the educated opinions of the authors and does not substitute for medical advice from your health care professional. It is your responsibility to consult your medical provider before making any changes to your diet. The author, therefore, assumes no responsibility for the decisions you take based upon the information contained in this eCourse.
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