Gone are the days of sending your child to school with a plain sandwich and a piece of fruit. Lunchboxes are getting more gourmet by the day, so here's how to keep up and mix up your family's lunchbox repertoire.
Become a wrap-star
Whether it’s leftover burrito mince, chicken risotto or quiche, put it in a wrap or pita pocket with a couple of extra ingredients and your kids will be thrilled.
“It’s great because it's not the surprise pack – they have eaten it the night before,” says Kate Di Prima, spokesperson for the Australian Dieticians Association and author of More Peas Please, Solutions For Feeding Fussy Eaters.
“I have done tests of lunch boxes with one ice cube in there, and it stays absolutely chilled, which eliminates any problems with eating something that’s gone off.”
Why not try Curtis Stone's zucchini vintage cheddar quiche and use the leftovers?
Put anything in a toasty
While the thought of a soggy toasted sandwich might turn most adults off, DiPrima says kids aren’t so fussy. “Sometimes parents get a bit clouded by the idea of what it is going to taste like,” she says. “You can make a toasted sandwich with the leftovers and wrap it up - every mum who has worked in a tuck shop will tell you that they make the toasted sandwiches at about 12 and pack them to go out at 1.10. They’re lukewarm anyway,” she says.
Same goes with leftover pizza – wrap it in foil for them to eat cold and you’ll never hear a complaint.
Add some iron
To keep energy and concentration levels up, it's important kids get some iron in their lunchbox. "Iron helps the immune system and also helps transport oxygen to the brain; it keeps children awake and alert," DiPrima says.
Good sources include ham, tuna and boiled eggs, but if you've got a fussy eater who will only tolerate a cheese sandwich, DiPrima suggests sneakily introducing some iron.
"Mash up some baked beans and put an absolute scraping on their sandwich, or put a scraping of hummus," she says. "That way you’re gradually building up how much you put on, and their taste slowly changes."
In recipes: Ham and vegie wrap
Think outside the vegie square
When it comes to squeezing vegetables into your kids' lunchboxes, DiPrima says something small will do the trick. "Even if it's just a cherry tomato or some iceberg lettuce wrapped around cheese cubes with a little toothpick, you want to get some sort of roughage to build up the fibre," she says.
Make brown bread fun
A lot of kids are resistant to the taste and texture of wholegrain bread, but DiPrima says you can make eating it fun. "Make a sandwich with one piece of white and a piece of brown," she suggests. "Make two cuts on one angle and two cuts on the other angle, so you have nine little squares in total. Then turn over every second square to make it like a chequerboard. Because it's something different, the other kids look in there and go, 'Wow that’s really cool' and you’re getting [the grains] into them."
As a fun kids' lunch treat, why not make Curtis Stone's chicken tacos?