Packed lunch gets taste-lift

Your child’s lunches don’t have to be bor­ing. Denise Phillips sug­gests some easy and nu­tri­tious al­ter­na­tives to sand­wiches

The Jewish Chronicle - - Life/food -

IT IS all too easy for both par­ents and chil­dren to get into a rou­tine of hav­ing the same packed l unch day i n and day out. Nu­tri­tional con­tent be­comes lim­ited and the chil­dren are not en­cour­aged to ex­per­i­ment with new flavours, tex­tures and ex­pe­ri­ences. The fussy eater is not ex­posed to new foods or new in­gre­di­ents, as might be the case with a cooked school lunch, and may end up fol­low­ing the eat­ing habits of their par­ents, who may only buy spe­cific brands and eat a nar­row range of foods.

Due to a lack of fa­cil­i­ties or for kashrut rea­sons, many chil­dren do not have the op­por­tu­nity to eat school lunches, but that does not mean your chil­dren need to miss out nu­tri­tion­ally.

There plenty of healthy op­tions and ideas to make lunchtime more ex­cit- ing and help them achieve their cru­cial five por­tions of fruit and veg­eta­bles a day.

How­ever, we are all very busy, so packed lunches need to be easy to pre­pare. Fresh is best, but cre­at­ing com­plex menus in the midst of the 7.30am rush hour at home is more than most par­ents are able to take on.

The an­swer lies in plan­ning in ad­vance, pre­par­ing in stages, keep­ing a good stock cup­board of healthy op­tions, shop­ping wisely and get­ting the chil­dren to make them with you — so in time they will do it them­selves.

Start by ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of bread — brown, whole­meal, multi­grain, bagels, sliced bread, pitta, wraps, cia­batta and so on.

Then you can build on the ba­sics, adding slightly dif­fer­ent twists. Be­ing too rad­i­cal may not work, but if your child likes egg, for ex­am­ple, ex­per­i­ment by adding sweet­corn, chopped pep­pers, tomato, cu­cum­ber, salad, roasted veg­eta­bles or even olives ei­ther in­di­vid­u­ally or col­lec­tively.

In­clude fish at least once a week — sal­mon pâté is easy, but fish cakes, gou­jons and cold sal­mon can re­place the tra­di­tional sand­wich.

An­other op­tion is to use left­overs from din­ner the night be­fore and have it as the per­fect cold lunch. Cold fish pie, shep­herd’s pie, meat loaf, risotto, sausages, chicken salad are easy and eco­nom­i­cal to make for din­ner and an even bet­ter op­tion for lunch the next day.

Pota­toes can be served in such a va­ri­ety of ways and pro­vide good car­bo­hy­drate and vi­ta­mins. Cold jacket po­tato, po­tato salad and Span­ish po­tato tor­tilla (my recipe be­low) all make good lunch box meals.

Other quick fixes to get you through the week in­clude chicken drum­sticks, coleslaw, sliced meats, pasta sal­ads, veg­etable bakes, sushi and of course on a dif­fer­ent day, cold quiche, pizza wedges, car­tons of cot­tage cheese, slabs of cheese with crack­ers. All th­ese will make a change from your stan­dard sand­wich.

For a real treat, in­clude a small tub of hum­mus with some carrot or cu­cum­ber ba­tons or ring the changes and add cooked sweet po­tato wedges, al dente small pieces of broc­coli or cau­li­flower flo­rets.

Al­ways en­sure that your child has lots of wa­ter dur­ing the day. Fruit will also help to hy­drate them. Pro­vide at least once piece of fruit that is easy to eat — peel it or cut up as there is more chance it will get eaten.

Do check with your school as they may have par­tic­u­lar di­etary or kashrut rules for you to fol­low. But the pro­vi­sion of food in schools is meant to be a two-way process be­tween par­ents and chil­dren. The Schools Trust, the body set up by the gov­ern­ment to im­prove school din­ners, sug­gests draw­ing up a pol­icy for packed lunches and some schools have banned fizzy drinks and chocolate bars. In oth­ers the PTA have in­tro­duced cook­ing ses­sions and work­shops for par­ents to show them how to make “the healthy lunch box” which has helped to en­cour­age new in­gre­di­ents and con­tents.

So by plan­ning or even freez­ing ahead, you can make your child’s school lunch a bal­anced and var­ied one and one that can en­hance their de­vel­op­ment, con­cen­tra­tion and all­round health.

A Span­ish-style tor­tilla can pro­vide din­ner and the ba­sis for a healthy packed lunch for your chil­dren

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