The recent emphasis on healthy school meals has thrown a spotlight onto packed lunches. More and more schools across the country are turning out really good school meals and parents can know that when their child goes to school they will have a hot nutritious lunch. However, lots of parents still go for the packed lunch option, as I do with my children and I find it difficult day in day out to give my kids a healthy lunch that has some variety in it. A recent report (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14770377) that highlights the huge amount of salt in supermarket bread means that I don’t want the kids to have a sandwich every day, not least because it becomes boring after a while. So here are some tips, recipes and guidelines to give your kids a packed lunch that is delicious and healthy.
|Seren making her Thai noodle salad (in her dressing gown)|
If your kids like sandwiches then try them with a variety of beads such as wholemeal or pitta or you could make a tortilla wrap instead. You can use a variety of great fillings such as cream cheese, cucumber and ham or leftover roast chicken mixed with BBQ sauce with a little shredded lettuce or for the more adventurous hummus with grated carrot and pepper. Also below is a recipe for a chicken tikka wrap.
On cold winter days fill a wide neck flask with homemade tomato soup or lentil and bacon soup (see recipe), leftover casserole or their favourite pasta dish. My youngest daughter just won’t eat sandwiches so I make her a noodle salad (her favourite) or a pasta salad. For the pasta salad, combine cooked cooled pasta with a diced tomato, a couple of torn basil leaves, a couple of cubes of mozzarella cheese and a little olive oil. For a noodle salad combine cooked cooled noodles with a Thai style dressing of 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp sugar and a squeeze of lime. Add in their favourite diced up veg, ideally with a variety of colours, pop a few torn coriander leaves in and that’s it. The best thing about these salads is that you can make 2 or 3 pots up and keep them in the fridge.
Kids generally like bite sized finger foods so you could add a few vegetables such as carrot, cucumber and celery sticks or some cherry tomatoes or a little tub of fruit salad comprising grapes, raspberries and blueberries. Other bite sized treats include pieces of their favourite cheese, crackers, breadsticks, ham, salami…the list is endless.
I really think that if your kids have a healthy lunchbox then a treat is essential. A packet of crisps or a biscuit bar is fine. Even better would be a homemade sweet treat such as banana bread or a healthy cereal bar (see recipe).
Include a drink to keep your child hydrated and help them concentrate. Go for still / sparkling water, semi-skimmed milk, or unsweetened fruit juice. At Dwr y Felin we recently had a class discussion on ‘energy’ drinks. It surprised me how many kids had it as a normal part of their day and personally as a parent these products are the last thing I would ever let my children have as they contain so much sugar and are marketed in a way that suggests that they are a vital source of energy.
Fruity cereal bars
What you need
4 oz Butter
4oz Brown sugar
3 tbsp Golden syrup
4oz dried fruit – there are loads to choose from including sultanas, apricots, and cranberries. Use your imagination.
1oz Sunflower seeds
1oz nuts – any you like, hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts.
1oz Rice krispies
1oz desiccated coconut
How to do it
1) Preheat oven to 170 degrees C or gas 3. Line an 8-inch baking tin with greaseproof paper. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan.
2) Place all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Pour over the melted butter, sugar and syrup and stir in thoroughly.
3) Pour the mixture into your tin and press the mixture down into the tin with the back of a metal spoon. Kids can now lick the spoon and bowl!
4) Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Leave to cool and then turn out of tin. Cut into bars these will keep in an airtight container for a good few days – if they last!
Chicken tikka wraps
What you need
2 tortilla wraps
1 200g packet ready cooked sliced chicken tikka
½ carrot grated
2 spring onions finely sliced
handful of lettuce leaves shredded
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
How to do it
1) Spread each tortilla with 1 tbsp yoghurt
2) Top with some lettuce, carrot, spring onion and 100g chicken tikka
3) Fold ends in and roll up. Cut in half and serve
Lentil and bacon soup
2 sticks of celery
2 thick rashers smoked streaky bacon or pancetta cut into cubes
200g red lentils
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (made up with boiling water and a stock cube)
Chop the onion, carrot and celery into medium dice and set aside. In a large saucepan fry the bacon until golden. Add the vegetables and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the lentils then the liquid. Bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour (or more if you can) you are looking for a thick consistency. Keep an eye on the liquid level though – top up with water if becoming to thick as it can burn on the bottom if your not careful. Season with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread.