Healthy Lunchbox OptionsNaturely
When I was a kid, my mum usually packed lunch for me, together with a quick note to show her love. Imagine how excited I felt when opening the lunch box to find out what she wrote to me as well as the yummy dishes she made for me. Since my daughter started schooling last year, I was so determined to maintain this family tradition.
I started to imagine my daughter will happily trot off to school with a box of healthy and sumptuous goodness, then excitedly devour every yummy bit during lunch time while I feel like the most contented mum in the world. If only life could be so smooth-sailing! My little picky eater wasn’t happy whenever her lunchbox contained too many green veggies or the dishes were repeated too frequently. And the legendary butter and ham sandwich is definitely not an option for a food-loving mummy like myself. After the first few days, I quickly realised how fast I ran out of healthy lunch box options. Soon, wracking my brain or spending hours looking for healthy and exciting packed lunch ideas became a daily challenge.
If you ever felt the same, this article is for you because I am gonna share all tips and tricks to make lunchbox a breeze again. Do check this out and I hope you can pick up a few lunchbox ideas to inspire you all year round. Let’s dive in!
1) What makes a balanced lunchbox?
Before jumping into specific lunchbox ideas, I thought it would be useful to share what makes of a nutritiously balanced lunchbox. According to BBC Good Food, a balanced lunchbox should contain:
- Starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes or pasta
- Protein foods like meat, fish, eggs or beans
- A dairy item, like cheese or yogurt
- Vegetables or salad and a portion of fruit
Apart from the more scientific theory, this is what I have learned from my close friend, a mum of 3, and an uncrowned kid-friendly lunchbox queen with 5 years of experience in the field. Always make your life simple and easy by planning the lunchbox based on the below three main components:
- Main dish
- Fruit or salad
- Healthy snacks
Here are my absolute favourite ideas for each of the three components.
2) Main dish
Chicken lettuce cups
If your child requires gluten-free options or is just very picky about eating veggies, this recipe for chicken lettuce cups is a must-have for your family. My daughter adores this because her favourite veggie is romaine lettuce and she always has fun assembling the lettuce cups on her own by scooping the chicken fillings into the lettuce cups. My husband loves this because it’s healthy, crunchy and refreshing during summer time. I enjoy making this because it’s so fast and easy. Since no one in my family wants soggy lettuce cups, I always pack the chicken filling in a separate container, together with a cold pack and a spoon.
- 2 chicken breasts
- 60 g low-fat mayonnaise
- 1 stick celery chopped into small dice
- 8 mint leaves finely chopped
- 6 chives finely chopped
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- salt and pepper to taste
- romaine lettuce leaves
Steam the chicken breasts until cooked through. Usually, it will take about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, but always poke them with a skewer to ensure the juices run clear. Alternatively, you can poach the chicken breast for 10-15 minutes. Then set chicken aside to cool and finely chop or shred the meat.
In a large bowl, mix the chicken gently with mayonnaise, celery, mint leaves, chives, lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For a more interesting and healthier take on this chicken filling, you can try to substitute mayonnaise with Greek yoghurt or even pesto. Yum!
Separate the lettuce leaves and send a few mint leaves to school, along with chicken filling in a separate container. When lunchtime comes, enjoy!
Easy cheesy quiche cups
This is by far the most versatile recipe in my notebook. I make one batch at least once a month because it tastes great during breakfast, lunch, dinner or a savoury snack. The cooking can’t be easier and I can utilise whatever ingredients left in the fridge. Waste not, want not, right?
Preheat oven to 180C
Heat remaining olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan
Remove from heat and add zucchini while the pan is still hot. Add the cooked sweet potato. Then transfer all veggies into a large bowl
Whisk eggs, milk, 3/4 of the cheese, salt and pepper together in a separate bowl
Add veggies to the egg mixture and stir well
Divide mixture across the trays
Top with remaining cheese
Place in the oven to bake for 15 minutes or until firm and starting to turn golden on top
Tuna, avocado and cheese wrap
- 95 g tinned sandwich tuna in spring water drained
- 2 to rtillas
- 1 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
- 1 small handful of rocket leaves
- ½ small avocado thinly sliced
- 4 tbsp grated low-fat cheddar cheese
Put the drained tuna in a bowl and finely flake with a fork.
Spread the tortillas evenly with the mayonnaise, then top half of each tortilla with the rocket, flaked tuna, avocado slices and cheese.
Roll up, starting from the filled side, to enclose the filling. Cut in half to serve.
3) Fruit or salad
Veggie sticks with dip
I know this might sound strange but my daughter enjoys raw veggies more than cooked veggies. Therefore, veggie sticks with hummus or cream cheese dip is always a staple in her lunch box. And the method can’t be any simpler. Just cut up cucumber, celery and carrot into sticks, then pack into the lunchbox together with your kid’s favourite dip. I have tried homemade hummus, low-fat cream cheese and they are both delicious. But smashed avocado with cilantro and lemon juice is simply the best. Feel free to opt for other veggies such as red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes or radish and don’t forget the cool pack to better preserve the freshness of veggies and the yummy dip.
Do you like grocery shopping with your little one? I love it because I think it’s a great way to show seasonal produce to my daughter and let her explore different colours, shapes and smells of so many varieties of fruits instead of sticking to the common bananas and apples. Whenever we go shopping together, I would give her a little task to look around and decide what fruit to buy so that my family can enjoy and she can pack in her lunchbox for the upcoming week. Of course most of the time she loves to have apples or strawberries in her lunchbox, but sometimes she would surprise me with her adventurous choices such as pineapples, figs and peaches.
Another tip I have learned to encourage my daughter to try other fruits is to prepare rainbow fruit sticks. Cut her favourite fruits and some new fruits into cubes, then thread the pieces onto ice cream sticks. Try mixing fruits with different colours to make the sticks look fun for kids. I would also recommend using ice cream sticks instead of the skewer for extra safety.
4) Healthy snacks
Carrot and zucchini chocolate muffins
- 275 grams butter room temperature
- 1 cup Rapadura sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups spelt flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon bicarb of soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup yoghurt
- 1/2 cup milk optional, use if mixture is too dry
- 1 zucchini grated and squeeze out the moisture
- 1 carrot grated and squeeze out the moisture
Preheat oven to 175°C and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
For the wet ingredients, cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy in a large bowl. Then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the yoghurt first. If the mixture is too dry, add milk.
For the dry ingredients, in a separate bowl, combine the spelt flour, cacao, baking powder, bicarb of soda and salt.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and carefully pour in the wet ingredients. Then stir and fold the mix a couple of times to roughly combine. Don’t over stir the mix because a lumpy batter makes a tasty muffin.
Fold in zucchinis and carrots.
Fill the paper case until 2/3 full.
Bake for approximately 20 – 25 minutes. The muffins are done when the toothpick comes out clean.
Cool in the tray for 10 minutes then turn out onto wire rack. Let cool a bit and dig in!
Stovetop Air Popped Popcorn
- 3 ½ tbsp 58g fresh popcorn kernels
- ¼ - ½ tsp salt or adjusted to taste
Preheat a 2-quart non-stick pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Open the lid, and add a few drops of water to the pot. If they immediately sizzle, reduce the heat to slightly above low. Add the popcorn kernels, and immediately replace the lid back on.
Gently shake the pot every 2 seconds. (The popcorn kernels should start popping within 1-2 minutes.) Continue to gently shake the pot every 2 seconds until at least 3 seconds elapse in between kernel pops. Immediately remove the pot from the heat, pour the popcorn into a large bowl, and sprinkle the salt on top.
When it comes to packing lunch for your kids, a safe-to-use container with convenient compartments to keep the lunch organised and fresh tasting can really make your life ten times better. Do check out this Cheeki Lunch Box or this Ever Eco Stainless Steel Bento Snack Box via Naturely Shop platform. They are great options to kick-start your journey to countless healthy lunchbox options.
Now that you know the basics of a healthy lunchbox, together with some great ideas to get inspired, so don’t hesitate to mix and match based on your kid’s appetite as well as your budget and time. Be adventurous, get creative and I can guarantee you will surprise your kid and yourself!