As time-pressed parents well know, preparing a healthy packed lunch that your kids will actually want to eat is easier said than done. If you need some inspiration, then look no further than our top five tips: you’ll find lots of easy, cost-effective ideas that will help you to make exciting lunches your little ones will love.
We’ve even shared some handy tricks you can use to encourage even the fussiest children to eat a healthy meal. That means your kids can enjoy a tasty, satisfying and healthy packed lunch, and you can rest easy knowing that your little ones are getting all the nutrition they need to keep them going until home time.
Find ways to sneak in extra veggies
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our kids just won’t eat their veggies. If you’ve tried everything and your little one still turns their nose up at your lovingly prepared healthy lunches, then it’s time to get stealthy. Adding pureed vegetables to recipes your children already love is a great way to encourage fussy eaters to get their five-a-day, and chances are they won’t even realise that they’re eating their greens.
We love this recipe for easy butternut squash hummus from Belling, which can be made in bulk and portioned into little pots with crackers or crudités. These easy savoury muffins from HealthyLittleFoodies also manage to pack in four different types of veggies, but will still look and taste delicious.
Prep lunches ahead of time
Family life can be busy at the best of times, but whatever you do, don’t leave it until the morning to prepare your children’s packed lunches. When you’re pressed for time and trying to multitask, you’re more likely to reach for unhealthy convenience snacks and processed foods. By prepping as much as possible ahead of time, you’ll be able to stay in control of your menu plan, and make sure that your kids are getting healthy, homemade food every day.
Set aside some time on a Sunday night, and prep what you can in advance. This way, you won’t have to worry about finding the time to make lunches when things get hectic during the week. If you need some help getting started, then check out this guide to prepping a week’s worth of packed lunches from The Kitchn.
Get a healthy balance with bento boxes
Children love variety, and a picnic-style spread is a great way to ensure they get a balanced meal with a little of all the essential food groups. Bento boxes — the name given to lunch boxes with lots of small, customisable compartments — are a great way to do this, and they’ll help to keep everything fresh, too. And, as they feature lots of little boxes, they’re very handy for keeping an eye on portion control, too.
Make lunchtimes fun
Adding novelty and fun to your child’s packed lunches is a great way to encourage them to eat a healthy lunch. Get creative: you could cut veggies into stars or flowers, create faces or characters, or use fun cookie cutters to create cute sandwich shapes (this is especially handy if your little one always leaves their crusts). Not only will it brighten their day to find a picture-perfect artwork in their lunchbox, but the smaller sandwich sizes can help with portion control, too. For more inspiration, take a look on Pinterest, where you’ll find lots of adorable ideas that will help you to take your little one’s lunchbox to the next level.
Get the kids involved, and set up a star chart
Your kids are more likely to eat their lunches if they’ve helped to plan and prep them, so get them involved. Ask them to suggest a few things they’d like to see in their lunchbox (within reason) and head to the kitchen together. This is a great way to introduce ideas about healthy eating and getting a balanced diet, and you can use it to teach them a few basic kitchen skills, too. If your children are fussy-eaters, it’s also a great way to help familiarise them with any foods they aren’t sure about.
If your kids are especially picky, then it might help to give them a little extra incentive to finish their lunches. Create a star chart, and award a sticker for every healthy packed lunch they eat. When your little one finishes their lunch every day for a week, reward them with a special after-school treat of their choice.
Prepping five tasty lunches every week can seem like a hassle, especially if your kids need a little encouragement to eat their greens. But, with careful planning, making nutritious meals your kids will love couldn’t be easier. Simply take these tips on board, and your child’s packed lunch will soon be the envy of all their friends.