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What’s in my lunchbox

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with lunch ideas for your growing kids – here’s how to get them to enjoy different foods that are fun and nutritious!

Five million lunchboxes are made every day in this country. The Foods Standards Agency survey of lunchboxes showed that three out of four contained foods too high in saturated fat, salt and sugar and almost half failed to contain any fruit.

With three children of my own, I know the daily grind. How many peanut butter or Marmite sandwiches can a parent make? Come October, most creative lunch impulses have died a dreary day-to-day death. So here are some ideas for lunches that pack a punch!

Add a nutritious filling to these pitta pockets and you have an instant lunchbox hit. What’s more, you can prepare the filling the night before.

Serves 2 portions
time to prepare 10 minutes
time to cook 10 minutes

2 eggs
200g canned tuna in oil
100g sweetcorn
2tbsp mayonnaise
1tsp white wine vinegar
2 spring onions, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few drops Tabasco sauce

To Garnish

Salad cress

To Serve

2 pitta breads

Put the eggs in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes (the yolk should be solid). Drain and cool under cold water. Peel the eggs when cold. Meanwhile, strain the oil from the can of tuna and mix the flaked tuna together with the sweetcorn, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, spring onion, salt and pepper and the hot sauce. Roughly chop the hard-boiled eggs and add to the tuna mix with the salad cress, stirring well. Cut the pitta breads in half to give 4 pitta pockets and divide the mixture between them. Wrap in a napkin and cover with cling film or foil.

chinese chicken wraps

Wraps are the new trendy sandwich and this is one of my favourite fillings for a wrap – it’s a sort of the cheat’s version of Chinese duck in pancakes.

Serves 1 portion
Time to prepare 10 minutes
Time to HEAT 2 minutes

1tbsp mayonnaise
1tsp soy sauce
1tsp plum sauce
40g cooked chicken, shredded
25g peeled cucumber cut into matchsticks
A small handful of shredded iceberg lettuce
1tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

To Serve

1 tortilla

Mix together the mayonnaise, soy sauce and plum sauce. Stir in the shredded chicken and cucumber. Sprinkle over the toasted sesame seeds. Heat the tortilla until it’s warm. Arrange the filling near one end of the tortilla and roll up.

recipe from after school meal planner, by annabel karmel, published by ebury press

Bread choices in your local supermarket is huge. Why not experiment with the options

Pitta (either small individual size or half of a regular-size); Multi grain or Granary bread; Bagel; Tortilla; Raisin bread; Ciabatta and Baguette

Favourite sandwich fillings

Peanut butter, plain or with honey, banana or jam
Chopped hard boiled eggs mixed with mayonnaise and salad cress
Cream cheese with cucumber
Roast chicken, sweetcorn and mayonnaise
Sliced turkey or ham, Swiss cheese, tomato, cucumber and alfalfa sprouts with a little dash of salad cream
Hummus with grated carrot
Mashed sardines mixed with a little tomato ketchup

Other good sandwich fillings

Small cooked prawns mixed with a little mayonnaise and ketchup combined with shredded lettuce
Chopped hard boiled eggs mixed with mayonnaise, salad cress and diced cherry tomatoes
Chicken Caesar Salad mix

Annabel Karmel’s Perfect Lunchbox

8 lunchtime suggestions

Avoid too many processed foods, as they tend to contain few nutrients and too much salt, sugar, additives and saturated fat. Instead of crisps or chocolate biscuits try offering toasted seeds, twiglets, popcorn, rice cakes, mini cheeses, yoghurt-covered raisins or dried apricots.
However healthy food is, it won’t get eaten unless it’s tasty and appealing to your child. Simple touches can make all the difference like cutting sandwiches into shapes using cookie cutters or threading fruit onto a straw to make a fresh fruit skewer.
As the colder weather sets in it’s a good idea to include something hot in a lunchbox. A wide mouthed mini thermos flask would be ideal for serving up a delicious cup of home-made or good quality bought soup like tomato soup which is both warming and nutritious. You could also put foods like baked beans in a flask.
Salads make a nice change from sandwiches, try Chicken Caesar Salad, Chef’s Salad with Turkey and Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes and Mini Balls of Mozzarella or Chicken Salad with Pasta, Sweetcorn, Cherry Tomatoes and Spring Onion. Keep the salad dressing separate and let your child pour it over his salad himself so that it remains crisp. Salads provide part of the 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg.
Give them pure fruit juice or water. Beware, some juice drinks contain very little juice but a lot of sugar, so always look at the label. Fresh fruit smoothies and fruity milkshakes are full of vitamins and calcium and are easy to make. Probiotic Mini Yoghurt drinks are good, too.
It’s a good idea to buy an insulated lunch box. Lunchboxes left in a warm place can become a breeding ground for germs. To keep your child’s lunchbox cool, buy a mini ice pack or freezer gel packs which can be frozen and inserted with the lunch. Buy a couple of ice packs so that you will always have one in the freezer. Alternatively freeze a carton or plastic bottle of juice overnight. The frozen drink will help keep food cool and will have defrosted by lunchtime.
Children like raw vegetables such as sticks of carrot, sweet pepper, cucumber etc so wrap these in dampened kitchen paper to prevent them drying out and maybe include a tasty dip like Cream Cheese and Chives or Hummus.
Add a personal touch to your child’s lunch, tuck in a note, stickers or joke or send a special treat labelled ‘share with a friend’.

Pack fun napkins, decorate lunch bags with stickers or draw a face on a banana with a marker pen.

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