Trying to decide what to put in the school lunch boxes is a daily headache for most parents, let alone finding a plastic container and matching lid in the morning rush. Gone are the days, when a simple Vegemite sandwich and apple would pass muster. Nowadays, with food allergies on the rise and nutrition advice coming at us from all angles, many parents feel the pressure to create chef-standard school lunches that tick all the boxes for being healthy, fun and tasty.
With the average child spending 13 years at school, that’s an awful lot of school lunches that need to be created, but thankfully, with a little planning and a trip to your local independent grocer or fruit shop, you can help your children be ‘top of the grade’ when it comes to a healthy and delicious packed lunch.
How good and tasty are imperial mandarins right now? Originating in Australia, imperial mandarins are easy to peel, travel well, contain very few seeds and have a sweet refreshing flavour that most kids love.
Make sure you look for mandarins that have a glossy skin and fine texture. Fruit should feel heavy for its size which indicates good juice content. The puffy appearance and feel is a normal feature of the fruit but steer clear of mandarins that have obvious soft spots or mould.
An apple a day
As the old saying goes: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples are Australia’s second-most popular fruit – and with 12 varieties grown here – there are plenty to choose from. Aussie farmers grow a whopping 1.6 billion apples each year, and we eat 200 million kilos a year.
If you have fussy eaters you can always try grating apples and making delicious apple and cinnamon muffins, but most children love the crunchy, sweet flavour of apples and they make a great after school snack too.
Our top pick is the Pink Lady. Fizzy, sweet and effervescent in flavour, no wonder it’s the best-selling apple in Australia.
Nutritionists describe bananas as a complete meal for a reason. Packed with potassium, fibre and a host of vitamins as well as folic acid, bananas are a low GI snack that will help keep young brains ticking over well past morning tea, and into the afternoon.
Bananas are convenient, rich and sweet, but if your children screw up their noses at the idea of a banana in the lunchbox, you can always try hiding them inside banana choc chip muffins or a loaf of raspberry and banana bread. Oh, and make sure you save a slice for Mum or Dad.
Munch and Crunch on carrot and celery
Kids love their treats, and they know how to nag for them! But studies show more than 9 out of 10 Aussie children don’t eat the recommended daily serves of vegetables.
Getting children used to eating veggie sticks in their lunch box can help boost the daily vegetable quota. Carrots and celery sticks make an easy fuss-free morning tea snack.
If they need some encouragement, add a tasty healthy dip. Apparently, children need to try new fruits and vegetables up to eight or nine times before they are liked or accepted. So, keep trying and hopefully the daily lunch box battle will become a little easier.