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21 top tips for school lunches

21 top tips for school lunches

Stuck for ideas on filling your child’s lunchbox with food that won’t end up back home or in the bin? Healthy Food Guide readers share their top tips for making kids’ lunches healthy, delicious – and eaten.

1. I keep a spreadsheet of all my lunchbox ideas and tick them off for each child for each day of the week. This means I don’t have to re-invent the ‘ideas’ wheel each day, and it makes grocery shopping much easier. I just check my list and stock up on what I need. It also makes sure the kids end up with heaps of variety. Jo Wood

2. I only put healthy options in – so they either eat or starve! Fortunately, they have friends who also eat healthily, so they often come home asking, “Can you get me some pistachios?”. Sharon Chandler

3. Pack small amounts of a variety of foods. For example, use small containers within the lunchbox for little salads, bean mix, cut up fruit, yoghurt with berries, separate small cheeses like sticks or Babybel cheese with carrot and celery sticks. It will get eaten. Jan La Riviere

4. They must bring all uneaten food home. I then sit them down, and ask them what was wrong with the food provided. Sometimes, the answer has been “I don’t get enough time to eat all that.” So I have learnt to downsize their lunch. Antoniella Culjak

5. Instead of putting a whole apple in the lunchbox, I cut up the apple into small pieces and put them into a plastic, sealable bag with a little bit of lime juice. The lime stops the apple from turning brown and my daughter loves the lime taste with the apple! Renee Mattsson

6. Associate the food with activities they have enjoyed outside of school. My six-year-old son loves small packets of plain popcorn because he associates it with movie time at home. Joanne Harrison

7. Change the way the food looks. One day have carrot sticks, the next, grated carrot. Cut sandwiches in different shapes – rectangles, triangles, squares. Or use cookie cutters (but not too often as these create waste). Trudy Popham

8. Get your kids to help choose recipes to bake on the weekend so they have interesting things for their lunchboxes during the week. Annie Grace

9. We tend to avoid packaged foods because of the sugar and fat content, but we make sure we always have some sort of ‘special’ fruit instead – like pineapple, strawberries, melon or grapes. We justify the extra cost by reminding ourselves how much we saved on boxed, packaged stuff. Michelle Mako

10. Get them to pack their own lunchbox – under your watchful eye, of course. They normally like to only pack what they know they will eat and like, so there is no waste, either. Abigail Stantiall

11. Tell them that Dad has the same as them today and that he loves all this food. My little boy just idolises his Dad! Simone Siladi

12. Pack dry cereal (such as Fruity Bix) instead of chips. Tania Thornton

13. Healthy doesn’t have to mean ‘yucky’ food – as long as it is tasty, the kids will eat it. Try threading sandwich fillings on (blunt) kebab sticks for little fingers. Things such as bread, ham, cheese and even raisins threaded onto the kebab makes for an interesting way to eat a ‘sandwich’. Alison Pollock

14. I create a ‘platter’ of nibbles (veges, cheese, olives) and rolled-up mountain bread with Philadelphia cheese and Marmite on the side. My son feels very grown up eating like this. Anita Peterson

15. Let them help you choose what goes in and pack only one treat food. If my kids don’t eat their fruit, the next day they don’t get the treat food – just more fruit. This works for me. Jill Murphy

16. Get them involved. Ask them to help shop for their lunch. Praise wise choices and explain why other choices aren’t as good. We have a saying, “If you need to be a scientist to read the ingredients list, it probably isn’t the best choice.” Natasha Marinos

17. We do a special shop each week when my son gets to choose (with a bit of pushing in the right direction) what he wants for his morning tea and lunch at school. He heads off with a basket and chooses his own snacks and lunches, brings them back to wherever I am, and we talk about them and decide together if they go in the trolley or back on the shelf and why. It’s time consuming, but he eats things he has picked. Wendy Kemp

18. Only offer healthy foods – but get them to choose which ones each morning for the lunchbox. Janelle Day

19. Try something at home first, then ask if they would like it in their lunchbox. For example, pizza made from homemade pita with the fillings of their choices. Hinu Abraham

20. I process chicken with greens like celery or spinach in the blender to make a sandwich spread. John Sullivan

21 When making sandwiches, add the protein to the sandwich but keep the salad items separate so they can make their own sandwich at school. It also prevents the bread from going soggy. Maree Makelainen

Get kids active!

It’s not only sensible eating habits that will give your child good health. Healthy Food Guide readers also share great ideas to get kids moving.

1. We have ‘Picnic Monday’ – dinner goes into a chilli bin and the whole family heads off to the beach or a park. We play games and have a picnic dinner and stay until dark. We often have friends join us and we can have quite a crowd some weeks. Jo Wallace

2. Walk home from school with them and stop at the park on the way. When they get home, they will be shattered! Or, put on some loud music with a good dance beat, shut the curtains and join the kids having a good boogie. Sharon Sutherland

3. Find challenges which your kids can build up to – and be involved with them. My daughter and I trained together for eight weeks to do a 10km run. The rest of the family turned out to cheer and take photos and afterwards we went out for a café lunch. Since then, she has enrolled for a number of events, and is more likely to ask me if we can go for a run! Michelle Mako

4. Enforce the ‘homework first’ rule then no TV or video games – they will be glad to ‘escape’ outside to do something active. Jan La Riviere

5. My kids know that during the week they are allowed to have a half hour ‘screen time’ (on TV, computer or Nintendo, for example) if their homework is done. On Friday nights, they can do whatever they like and for as long as they like – although often they are so tired they fall asleep early. On weekends, screen time is limited to after dark or 7pm. Unless, of course, it is something like Singstar which we can all do together. Krys Lojek

6. I have a ‘treasure hunt’ after school in the backyard. I hide their favourite toy somewhere and they will run around for a while, to ‘earn’ their half hour of cartoons. Rochelle Maifeleni




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