Take lunch to the next level this year and give your kids some fun as well as good food.
It’s simple and quick to make, but keep it interesting by using different fillings when you can (e.g. leftover roast chicken, egg mayonnaise, avocado and soft cheese) and by changing up the bread itself too.
Try using different types of bread - wholemeal, white, granary, rye etc. and also different forms of bread e.g. sliced, bread rolls, baguettes, as well as the options below.
Wraps are great filled with hummus and grated carrot, or with soft cheese and ham. Simply put the fillings in and roll them up.
Brioche or croissants
These are full of butter, so are quite a rich option, but when it’s cold and your kids are racing around they’ll burn it off in no time. They’re delicious filled with slices of cheese and ham.
Chop up pitta breads and put in some dips to have with them (hummus / soft cheese / peanut butter) or simply fill them as you would with a normal sandwich.
Alternatives to 'The sandwich'
We’ve all got sandwich fatigue at one point or another. Mix it up by filling lunch boxes with foods that aren’t bread-based at all. Here are some ideas:
Pasta with pesto and broccoli is really easy to prepare. You could make big batches of it to use through the week, or have it for dinner one night and use up the leftovers in lunchboxes the next day.
Couscous is quite plain, so it’s great to flavour it with things your children like. Mushroom or tomato couscous are popular and you can add in chopped vegetables or serve with hummus and vegetable sticks.
Roast these in batches - along with a BBQ glaze, or spices if your kids like them - and then they’re ready to go. Just make sure that you put an ice pack in the lunchbox too, especially in hot weather.
Make batches of your own pizza slices and put on your children’s favourite toppings. You can freeze them in portions and take them out as you need them.
Eggs are full of protein, which is great for your kids. Add extra vegetables and cheese, or even potatoes to your frittata. It’s a great way to use up any leftovers that are hanging about in the fridge.
Quiche / pork pies / pasties / samosas
Big items like this are quick options for when you’re busy, especially if they’re shop bought. They make putting lunch together really quick, and you can add in a pot of tomatoes or vegetables to go with them.
The main part of lunch is very important, but the snack elements can really inject some fun too. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Vegetable sticks and hummus
This is a surprise favourite in our house. Simply put in a small pot of hummus and a selection of vegetable sticks - peppers, carrots and cucumber work well.
Bananas and custard
You don’t have to stick to the standard yoghurt pot at lunchtime. If your kids like to eat cold custard, put some in a pot and stir in chopped bananas. It’s a great pudding when the kids need more energy, especially in winter.
Cheese and grapes
It’s a classic combination, and always goes down a storm in this house.
If you make your own flapjacks you can add in some of your children’s favourite things, like apple chunks, raisins, or dried cranberries. Oats have slow releasing energy, which will help keep your kids going through the afternoon.
Fruit kebab sticks
Chop up fruits like melon and pineapple and put them on a stick with whole strawberries etc. Use whichever fruits your children like best.
Message on a banana
Use a pencil or something sharp to scratch a message or a picture onto the skin of a banana for your child. After an hour or so it will be much darker and easier to see - it will be a nice surprise for your child at lunchtime.
Whenever you’re making up a lunchbox, try to keep it simple for you, and fun for the kids.
Pop in the odd note or surprise to make them laugh - just make sure it won’t embarrass them in front of their friends!
Jo Murricane is a writer that loves food and drink, and you can read all about her food investigations on her blog, jo-blogs.co.uk. Due to her passion for quality food and drink, Jo is a founding member of Leeds Food and Drink Ltd., http://foodanddrinkleeds.co.uk.