Cutting a sandwich into fingers, heart shapes or stars instantly makes it more appealing to little people. Bite-size sandwich fingers give packed lunches a party food feel, and they get the goodness of the crust too. Using cookie cutters is a useful way to get a helping hand from your kids, when it comes to packing their lunches! Get them involved in choosing the shapes they'd like and cutting them to size with your supervision.
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Get Your Kids Involved
Kids' tastes are ever changing, so keep a regular list of their likes and dislikes. The more of a conversation you can have about food with your children, the better their relationship with it is likely to be.
Knowing what their favourites foods are is a great start to packing them an interesting lunch box. If they love the Sunday roasts you cook for instance, try mimicking aspects of them with sandwich fillers, such as roast chicken, stuffing and mayonnaise.
Change Things Up
If they're getting bored of sandwiches, try using wraps, pitta breads or savoury muffins instead. Fajita-style fillings work really well with wraps, and pittas are great for creamy fillings like tuna mayonnaise, and coronation chicken.
Cream cheese and ham always goes well with a savoury muffin, and wrapping them in grease-proof paper helps to stop any oily spills inside their lunch box.
Nuts are full of protein and are a brilliant little snack to keep your kids' energy levels up. If they're not so keen on the idea of plain nuts, you can toast them for extra flavour, or coat them in cinnamon and a little honey.
If they like a little bit of spiciness, try toasting cashews, almonds and peanuts in a mix of cumin, chilli and a modest amount of salt. For delicious mini treats, try dipping brazil nuts and hazelnuts into good quality chocolate (although it's entirely possible they may not make it as far as your child's lunch box!).
*Make sure to respect your child's school's 'nut policy'
If there's a particular style of cuisine your child loves, try making up the occasional themed lunch box. If they're fond of Chinese food for instance, spring rolls make a handy replacement for sandwiches, and prawn crackers are a great alternative to crisps as the odd treat.
Chicken satays and crispy duck rolls also work well as colder bites for their lunch boxes. Sneak little pots of soya sauce, or satay sauce in with their food for dipping and dunking.
With lots of child-friendly thermos flasks available to buy, packing them off with some hot soup is very doable. For colder months, soup can serve as serious comfort food.
Whatever their favourites are, making big batches means you don't have to be endlessly cooking. Simply freeze in plastic bottles (that are similar in volume to their thermos flask), and defrost and re-heat as you need to.
Let's face it ,on a cold, wet day chicken noodle soup is almost as good as a hug.
Much as the occasional calorific treat is popular with kids, there are some healthy alternatives. Flapjacks, sesame honey bars and granola & yoghurt pots can all be home-made, so you know how much sugar is going in.
Combining nuts and seeds with a little honey or good quality chocolate, can keep sugar highs in check, and toasting them always makes the flavour more interesting.
Fruit salads and fruity yoghurts also make healthier alternatives to mass-produced confectionary.
Pack it With Protein
It's important that children get enough protein with each meal. Beef, chicken, cheese, lamb, pork and fish are all packed with amino acids that our bodies require and can really help to boost children's concentration levels and help them focus in class.
As far as portion sizes go, a portion the size of a small fist is a good measure to go on. Chicken escallops, tuna mayonnaise, roast beef sarnies and cheese ploughmans are all tasty ways to get a regular amount of protein into their bellies.
For autumn and winter months, getting some hot food into their stomachs can help to keep the cold out. With lunch boxes coming in all shapes and sizes, and insulated too, you can get inventive with their midday meal.
Thermos flasks are great for storing hot sauces, soups and casseroles, and lunch boxes come with useful compartments so you can fit in some pre-cooked noodles or pasta shapes to go with the contents of their thermos.
Turn Favourites Into Salads
If there are particular dishes your kids love to eat at home, try turning them into salads for school lunches. If they can't get enough of roast chicken, slice some up into a salad and wrap up some croutons for them to add at lunch time.
If it's curry they're fond of, chicken tikka strips can easily add interest to salads, along with a good dollop of lemon mayonnaise.
Keep Things Bite-Size
Mini snacks and bite-sized treats work wonders with little ones. Whatever ends up in your children's lunch box, making it look like party food is brilliant way to ensure that everything gets eaten.
Try cutting sandwiches into fingers, slicing raw veggies into dunking sticks, and squeezing little pots of dips into their lunch box.
Mini cheeses, salamis, quiches, sausage rolls and pineapple & cheese on sticks work really well too.
Making up mocktails and non-alcoholic punch is a great way to get them drinking enough and eating plenty of fruit. Try mixing orange juice with lychee or cherry juice, or fill their thermos with juice mix and little slices of grapes, kiwi and orange. As well as tasting good, the juice and fruit will keep them hydrated and help to keep their concentration levels in check.
Swap White for Brown
If you're giving your child's lunch box a healthy overhaul, a quick and simple trick is to swap white foods for brown foods. Sandwich bread, pasta, muffins, pittas, bagels and wraps all come in wholemeal varieties and provide your child with a slow stream of energy, rather than an extreme spike. A great habit to get into if they're having trouble concentrating in class.
There are a wealth of things you can do to glam up a lunch box, starting with the lunch box itself. Let your kids choose one that they really like, and they'll be less likely to forget it!
Accessorising the contents of their lunch box is easy too. Try keeping drinks cool with plastic fun-shaped ice cubes, and pack them a cocktail parasol and a straw for a Hawaiian touch.
Patterned napkins and colourful cutlery are also great ways to keep lunch times interesting.
Think of what you enjoy eating in restaurants as a family, and try applying it to lunch boxes. Humous and pitta bread, frittata, pasta salads and meatballs are all dishes you can re-create for school lunches.
Home-made burgers in a wholemeal bap make a much healthier lunch than restaurant versions, and they'll love it if you pop a little pot of ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise in there for slathering on when lunch time rolls around.
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