10 Tips to Create a Winning Lunchbox
Article by Shaina Gangaramani, Founder of Healthy Bakery, Boutique Baker (linked here)
Lunchbox prep is something we have all struggled with from time to time, am I right? It isn’t easy having to constantly think of new and creative meals that pack in your 5 a day while staying fresh in an insulated box without refrigeration. So, Mum to Mum here’s my two sense on successful tips for a winning lunchbox.
Tip 1: Lunchbox Selection
Firstly, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right lunchbox. Personally, I keep an Omiebox which is very balanced as it has an insulated section for hot or cold foods, and two other compartments with one divider for veggies and other snacks. I wish this box came with more dividers but that’s an easy fix by simply inserting silicon baking cups to create different sections.
Another great lunchbox is the Yumbox: it has 6 compartments for different foods, comes in fun colours with cool interior designs, and even reminds you to put in the various food groups (dairy, protein, grains, fruit and veggies). It’s lightweight and easy for the little ones to carry too. Only drawback is that it doesn’t have insulated storage, and sometimes too many compartments pressures you into sending too many items that can cause confusion for your little ones.
A third great option is the Planet Box. It’s got 5 different sized compartments to pack a variety and its stainless, non-toxic and BPA free - Win Win! Only drawback is that there is no insulated section.
Tip 2: Phrases to Pack By
Eat the Rainbow: You don’t always have to send the most colourful, Instagramable lunchbox to school because let’s face it, you’ve got a day job, but do try to keep this phrase in mind because it will help to conjure up different foods.
Here are some quick colour coded foods to keep in mind:
Red - strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, apple slices, cherry tomatoes, salami
Orange - carrots, oranges, sweet potato chips, gold fish, melon
Yellow - bananas, mango, capsicum, hummus, crackers, cheese, baked chickpeas
Green - cucumbers, broccoli trees, avocado/guacamole, kale chips, pumpkin seeds, kiwi
Blue - blueberries, blackberries
Purple - olives, beetroot, figs, grapes
Brown - bread, wraps, croissant, nut free granola, rice cakes, pretzels
White – eggs, yogurt, popcorn, pasta
Inside this Yumbox: Green capsicum, carrots, egg muffins, blackberries & blueberries, beetroot crackers & brie cheese.
Variety & Balance: It’s not always about putting in super healthy items; offer clean treats alongside fruit and veg. Balance is key for making healthy lifestyle choices and for teaching lifelong healthy habits. It’s all well and good if your kids eat healthy under your supervision, but when they’re left to their own devices, they can make healthier choices when they’re not being deprived. Balance and moderation are everything. Teach these lessons young and they will be winning for a lifetime.
Think Ahead: Pre-cut things like fruit and veg so they’re easy to grab and go. Think cheese cubes, grapes, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, the options are endless. You can also do part of the prep the night before so you’re not rushing in the morning. For example, if you’ve had roast chicken for dinner, you can shred the left overs and toss it in some mayo and spring onions, chill it in the freezer and make your sandwiches in the morning. You can also bulk make pasta sauces freeze and store in ice trays for easy cooking.
Spruce it Up: Add in some décor with re-usable colourful mini forks, toothpicks and edible flowers. Buy some sandwich cutters and make some fun shapes. You can create anything from Hello Kitty to rocket ships, to animals to shapes. You can also create themed boxes for Halloween, Christmas or Easter.
Tip 3: Get them Involved
Get your kids involved in lunchbox prep. This is a big one! Try taking them on a grocery run and ask them to pick out some things. So many decisions in life are already made for them so when you ask their opinion, not only do they get excited but they know their opinion matters and they feel validated.
For example, my son never liked to eat sandwiches. I wasn’t sure if it was the getting his hands dirty or he simply wasn’t a sandwich guy. So, one day I said let’s make one together; he cut the edges off the bread, he spread on some butter, selected his choice of meat and cheese and bam a sandwich lover was born. Giving children autonomy breeds more independent and less picky eaters.
Tip 4: Make it a Fruitful Day
Lets talk fruit. Fruit is so important to a balanced diet and it really helps with my ‘Eat the Rainbow’ philosophy. Another reason I love fruit is because there is such a wide variety so you can keep changing it up and exposing your children to so many new tastes. Let in-season fruits be your guide and, by local as much as you can. And if you’re short on time there’s always options for pre-cut fruit in the supermarket. I usually like to give 1-2 fruit options in the snack box, and perhaps one more in the lunchbox.
Tip 5: Let’s get Veggielicious
Pair veggies with a dip like hummus or guacamole for a double dose of vegetables. Use a little creativity with shapes to inspire little ones to eat their veggies. Make flowered cucumbers, cut cherry tomatoes into hearts and even get older kids involved with the shape making to create a fun family activity. Don’t be afraid to try new veggies; just discuss them before and then give it a go. Colourful capsicum can brighten up a box and pack a powerful veggie punch.
Tip 6: Grains & Carbs
Kids are spending so many hours at school where they are so active, so it’s important to pack a healthy dose of grains and carbohydrates. My little one loves brown rice and bread so I try to mix it up between the two. Quinoa is also a great option if they’re feeling adventurous.
You can also try rice cakes, crackers, oats, bagels, milk bread, potato buns – variety is the spice of life. I love pasta and there’s wealth of different kinds available today from lentils, chickpea, brown rice and the good ole’ white pasta. Trying buy some fun pasta shapes like animals or dinosaurs to make it fun and mix up sauces from pesto to alfredo to tomato.
Inside this Yumbox: Avocado sushi, pomegranate, blackberries, crackers + brie cheese.
Tip 7: Feed those Growing Muscles & Bones
Protein is so important for our growing little ones so make sure to choose from tuna, turkey, chicken, ham and eggs. For vegetarians chickpeas and tofu are great options. If you’re little one loves chicken nuggets, surprise them with some on a mid-week hump day.
Let’s not forget dairy. Cheese cubes with crackers or even simple cheese sandwiches are always a winner. Try organic Greek or natural yogurt pots and send along some nut free granola for them to mix it with. I make a delicious Nut Free Cardamom Granola (@boutique_baker) which combines oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, raisins and dates all tossed in maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla.
Inside this Omiebox: Pomegranate, corn, ketchup, sweet potato parthas, chicken nuggets, avocado and brown rice.
Tip 8: Just the Good Stuff
Offer healthy yet tempting lunch box snacks and treats. I’m a baker by profession and I love a good muffin so I use that as a great opportunity to sneak in extra fruit and veg. I do a range of Teddy Cakes because who doesn’t want to open up their lunch box and see an adorable little bear smiling back at them. I use only the finest quality ingredients and all my treats are refined sugar free. My son loves my gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free Banana Bears and I surprise him with blueberries or raisins inside. They are packed with oats so I know he’s staying fuller for longer.
Banana Teddy Cakes from Boutique Baker
I also make Carrot, Apple, Zucchini Teddy Cakes which are packed with loads of hidden veggies and they are gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free and nut free. I love a little bit of dessert after my meals and we should never deprive our bodies, as long as you’re eating no-nasties, clean-baked, ‘good food you’ desserts. Shape taste buds at a young age with healthy desserts rather than store-bought sugary ones.
Carrot Apple Zucchini Teddy Cakes from Boutique Baker
For those of you who are allowed to send chocolate to school my Mickey Mouse Cakes are a must- try! Made with organic spelt flour and organic cocoa powder, they are vegan and nut free, super moist and fluffy! One bit and you’re hooked!
Mickey Cakes from Boutique Baker
Tip 9 : Lunchbox Notes
For those little ones that can read or even the ones that are just learning pack a Lunchbox note. It will challenge them, brighten up their day and lock in a little piece of you that will bring a smile to their faces. I love the collection by stationery brand @penandpaperhouse which includes 40 jokes and 40 inspirational quotes with cute designs and illustrations to spice up your lunchboxes.
Tip 10: Snap it
Take pictures of your packed lunches that way you can refer back to them when you’re stumped for ideas and even share with friends who may need some help.
Bonus Tip: Use your resources
Use Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration. They are so many creative lunchbox packers out there you are sure to find many ideas to fill up your boxes and satisfy your little ones.
To purchase any of Boutique Baker's incredibly clean and delicious goodies pictured here and so many more savoury and sweet non-guilty treats that you can enjoy at home or pop into a lunch box, head to her instagram: @boutique_baker