What?! Back to school…already?! Healthy School lunchbox ideas for you.
The end of school holidays! I can hear a lot of relieved mums and kids out there itching to get back into routine. For me it’s time off work, no stress, most importantly lots of play time with my boys, trips to the Coast, fun in the sun – I love Summer holidays! But, sadly it’s time to get back into routine and start talking school (and work!) lunches.
I’m hoping this post will give you plenty of ideas for sending ‘real food’ to school – after all its children’s fuel source for the day! I’ve included some trusted recipes we love from other bloggers, some of my own recipes, and some options you can buy from the supermarket that are ‘better’ than others, because let’s face it – we can’t do it all! Let’s start with the basics. A healthy school lunchbox should have real food in it. Sounds easy enough, but easier said than done when mums are so busy, kids are influenced by marketing and by what their friends are eating. If you are trying to transition older kids to a healthier lunchbox, try and get them on-side gradually. Get your kids involved in packing their lunchbox and making decisions. No point all of a sudden sending them off with a lunchbox full of vegie sticks if they aren’t used to it, because I will guarantee they will end up in the bin!
Transition things one step at a time. Lead by example, and explain why you are choosing healthier options, and the positive impact this will have on your health and frame of mind. Use the chemical maze or additive alert app to talk to your kids about what products actually contain, and how it may make them feel. Don’t go cold turkey on things, switch to ‘better’ versions of snacks. For example if your child is used to a packet of chips, then switch to plain chips that just contain potato, oil and salt. If they like flavoured rice crackers, try plain instead. Immediately you’ll be cutting down on the amount of additives they are consuming, and making the transition to whole foods easier on them and you! Be a good role model for your children, and change will slowly be accepted.
Some ideas for you now. I have made sure these are all nut free (or can be nut free), as I know most schools and daycare centres are. Make things in bulk and freeze. Think muffins, banana bread, fritatta, slices etc. It will make life easier during the week to be able to grab and fill those healthy school lunchboxes.
- My nut free ‘HNC Seedy Bliss Balls‘ You can find the recipe here. (Dairy, egg and nut free, can be gluten free)
- Easy to make Blueberry Pikelets – You can find the recipe here. (Nut free)
- Or you may prefer gluten, wheat and dairy free Buckwheat Pancakes that you can find here.
- The Naughty Naturopath Mum has a great SAVOURY PALEO SLICE that everyone here loves. (dairy, nut and gluten/grain free). If I make one of these on Sunday afternoon, it does my husband and I for lunches along with some greens and avocado for lunch till Thursday. This is also a great breakfast for your little ones before you send them off to school!
- Brenda Janschek has an easy to make BROWNIE CAKE that is delicious – a great treat for the lunchbox – I love this one as it’s so easy to make. (dairy, nut and gluten free). Your kids will love the chocolate taste and their friends will want to eat it too!
- Also, she has some amazing Chewy Choc-Banana Cookies that again are nut free so great for school lunches. Click here for the recipe (nut free).
You can try these no bake muesli bars from Well Nourished that look great!
Alexx Stuart has amazing recipes and a website full of information and resources on just about everything!
- A couple of ‘lunchbox favourites’ from her collection include her CHOCOLATE COATED BUCKWHEAT BARS (nut free, gluten and grain free, dairy free, can be egg free too!). A great alternative to store bought muesli bars which are far from nourishing.
- SPICED FIG AND GINGER BREAD – nourishing, great to slice up and freeze….if there is any left!!
- and Alexx Stuart’s REAL FISH FINGERS (options for Grain free and Gluten free) – It is really important for kids to have some protein in their lunchbox and a great way to do this is by using leftovers from the night before. I know fish fingers are a massive hit here – as long as you have some sort of insulated lunchbox with a frozen icepack, or frozen Little Mashies etc to keep things cold and fresh, why not?!
- Another great source of protein would be these CHICKEN POPS from Jen at Barefoot Kitchens. What a great idea – crumbed chicken on a paddle pop stick!
- Teresa Cutter, The Healthy Chef has a great recipe for BANANA AND COCONUT BREAD – (Gluten, dairy and nut free). As well as many many other fabulous recipes.
- If you don’t need it to be gluten free, then try my husband’s BANANA AND DATE LOAF (You would just have to omit the walnuts if your school is nut free).
- Changing Habits has CHOC TOPPED BANANA AND COCONUT SLICE (Dairy, Gluten, egg and can be nut free). Lots of healthy, whole food recipes on the Changing Habits website!
- Stace from A Healthy Mum has a recipe for CHOC CARAMEL BROWNIES (nut and dairy free) whose secret ingredient is zucchini!! Send your kids off to school with a real food ‘treat’ that also contains a vegetable – winning! (Tip: Make sure you really squeeze all the liquid out of the zucchini) Great straight from the freezer too according to Stace!
- A Healthy Mum also has just released an E-book for school lunchboxes, with 40+ recipes that are perfect for lunches – you can check it out here.
- Mamacino has a fantastic post full of great ideas here for lunchboxes – While you are there check out her E-books!
- Karen from Food Glorious Friendly Food has a blog post with 40 of her own recipes suitable for school!! ideas from sweet to savoury – including this all time favourite – ZUCCHINI SLICE, all with gluten, dairy free options. You can find this blog post here. Karen also has a fab book out called ‘Friendly Food for Chocoholics’ that you can find here.
- Monique from The Nourished Psychologist has an awesome ‘NOURISHING CHOCOLATE MOUSSE‘ recipe that is so healthy your kids can eat it for breakfast! (dairy, egg, gluten, nut free) Send them off to school with some in a little tub or re-usable pouch like Little Mashies (see below)
- CHEESE and PLAIN CRACKERS
- DIPS AND VEGGIE STICKS– carrot and celery sticks. You can find my Basil Pesto recipe here but remember if your school is nut free then please replace the cashews with pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. My Super Simple Hommous recipe is here. Make up a big batch at the beginning of the week and you are good to go!
- FRUIT – My only tip here is to make sure it doesn’t end up squashed on the bottom of the bag…..flashback of memories to school and squashed banana all over everything….gross! 🙂
- SALADS – Easy to prepare the night before when making dinner. Think healthy fats – avocado, boiled eggs, tuna etc. Even turn leftover pasta into salads, for example have chicken pesto pasta for dinner, have leftovers (cold) the next day for lunch.
- YOGHURT – just make sure it isn’t full of sugar and nasty additives. You can make your own yoghurt and buy re-usable pouches such as Little Mashies. Little Mashies are great for chia puddings, custards, also sending frozen smoothies etc – helps keep lunchboxes cool and little tummies full! You can find my BLUEBERRY CHIA PUDDING here and LAYERED MANGO CHIA PUDDING here. If you were sending the mango pudding in a reusable pouch just blend the mango with other ingredients then mix chia seeds in.
Five AM Organic yoghurt pouches don’t have any nasty additives like some of the other brands do.
- DRIED FRUIT – Be aware a lot of dried fruits have a sulphite preservative in them that can provoke things such as asthma. (You can read my son’s story here about sulphites contributing to his asthma) These Whole Kids brands are small individual packets that don’t contain sulphites. You could also buy larger bags of sulphite free dried fruit and use ziplock bags or small containers etc which would no doubt work out to be cheaper. Great for when you are on the run.
Some products that you can buy from the big supermarkets that are better than others~
* CARMAN’S – ‘Yummos’ – School friendly snacks (nut free)
**Also – if nuts are ok, Carman’s muesli bars are one of the best options!
* Popcorn – pop your own, or buy Cobb’s Natural Popcorn which is GM free (Corn is a crop that is genetically modified here in Australia so best to ensure it’s GM free)
* A nut free muesli bar option
* Table of Plenty – mini rice cakes
* Harvest Box snack packs – lots of varieties but there is a nut free one (pictured) if necessary for your school.
Nutra Organics has some wonderful Whole Food bars – my son particularly likes the Coco Probiotic bar! All organic, whole foods, nothing artificial whatsoever. Great for when you are on the run or haven’t had a chance to make anything. You can browse the wholefood bars here.
Don’t forget about their drinks. Make sure your child has a full water bottle and remind them to fill it up during the day. A lot of children still don’t have air conditioned classrooms so hydration is so important and will help them remain focused. Also it never hurts to give your children a little reminder about hygiene and not sharing water bottles, as you’d be surprised at how many kids do so. If you are in the market for a decent water bottle, you can check out a great range of water bottles from Biome here. While you are there, check out the range of lunchboxes. Insulated will be the best as bags are often left in the sun.
Well, I hope that gives you some great ideas and inspiration for healthy school lunchboxes! Our kids are so important, as is their education. We need to dedicate the time to fuelling their little bodies and minds for a big day!
Let me know your favourite lunchbox recipes in the comments below, would love to hear from you!