6 post-lockdown packed lunches for happy, healthy kids
A lot of parents will be breathing a sigh of relief that the end of home-schooling is in sight as schools are set to reopen on 8th March.
Making the shift back to prepping packed lunches every day rather than whipping something up at home is, however, going to take a little adjustment. There are also new hygiene worries to contend with and a change in routine for children which can be tricky. Transitioning back to school after being in lockdown is, therefore, not an easy task. We hear you.
That’s why we wanted to put together some tips and recipes to at least ease some of the stress on the lunch side of things, so there’s one less thing to worry about.
Tips for easy and healthy packed lunch prep post-lockdown
Starting with the lunchbox itself, stainless steel is great because it washes very easily, keeps food fresh, it's tough and doesn't leach any harmful chemicals into food. Plus you can chuck it in the dishwasher at the end of each day to sterilise it. It really is the perfect hygienic lunchbox material.
In terms of what goes inside, since routine is going to change anyway, this could be the perfect opportunity to form new healthy habits. We’re all aiming to stay healthy and boost our immunity at the moment and diet is a huge factor here. For us, the crunch points of a packed lunch are making sure there's enough green stuff and fibre to make sure their gut is looked after. Let's see if we can cram that all in and still get it eaten!
One trick we’ve found is that if you can get kids involved with the food, then they are more likely to eat it, which really is a win win for parents. Baking is a great way to get your children involved, messy hands and the excitement of watching the treats rise in the oven are always a winner. Even better, get them to actually assemble and pack the lunchbox themselves! Ask them what they fancy from a choice of nutritious things and give them a container to fill.
A great way to do this is by making lunch into an experience - why not create your own salad bar? This might sound daunting, but in reality it's just a load of fresh things cut up: cherry toms, grapes, cucumber, carrots, peppers, celery, radishes, a jar of olives, for example. Cheese cubes or ham fit in well here too.
Some simple post-lockdown packed lunch recipes to get you started
These cornbread muffins make a great alternative to sandwiches and freeze well for easy storage and less waste!
Butter or veg fat (for greasing the tray)
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp stock powder
Salt and pepper
4 spring onions
Bunch of chives
150g grated cheddar cheese
Small can of sweetcorn
300g buttermilk or yoghurt
100g of any kind of milk
Grease a deep muffin tray very well with butter or veg fat.
Mix together - 150g plain flour, 130g polenta, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp stock powder, pepper and half a tsp of salt.
Chop 4 spring onions and a bunch of chives and add to the mix with 150g grated cheddar cheese and a small can of sweetcorn.
Measure out 300g (ish) of buttermilk or yoghurt and beat with 2 eggs and 100g of any kind of milk. Mix this into the dry ingredients. Don't over mix - stop as soon as it's combined.
Fill the muffin tray and bake at 180* for 30 mins.
Let them cool for 5 mins then gently ease each muffin from the tray.
Why not make a double batch so you’ll have biscuits for ages!
3 tbsp maple syrup
tsp vanilla essence
Handful of chopped hazelnuts or raisins if you want
125g self raising flour
70g desiccated coconut
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp milk
Gently melt the butter on the hob. When it's melted stir the sugar in with the maple syrup and vanilla essence.
In a bowl mix all the other ingredients except the milk. Then mix the melted butter in and the milk.
Press the mix together into golf ball sized balls. You should get 16 balls. Put them on a lined baking tray making sure there is enough space for them to spread out. Flatten them a bit - if they crack round the edge just push them back together with your fingers.
Bake at 180* for 10 to 15 mins. They should flatten out and become golden.
Allow to cool a little before taking them off the tray.
Store in an airtight container. Or wrap in a beeswax wrap ;)
A classic and perfect for comforting winter packed lunches. Our 350ml insulated wide mouth bottle will keep soup warm until lunch time.
2 tins plum tomatoes
2 tsp stock powder
Salt and pepper
Handful of chopped fresh basil
300ml cream (or alternative)
Finely chop 1 onion and 1 carrot and saute in 40g butter on medium heat for at least 10 mins. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn and stir frequently.
Add 2 tins plum tomatoes, 680g passata, 2 tsp stock powder, salt and pepper. Fill one of the empty tomato cans with water and rinse out the other can and passata bottle with that water before adding it to the pan.
Bring to the boil then simmer for half an hour.
Add a big handful of chopped fresh basil (stalks included) then bend. Stir in 300ml cream or alternative, taste and season if needed.
Did you know spuds are a prebiotic? Prebiotics are essential for good gut health - they basically make it possible for the probiotics to thrive! Onions are also a prebiotic. This salad is a great way to get some veg in as you can basically add whatever your packed lunch eater will like.
Any type of potatoes. Waxy ones or salad spuds work well.
Mayonnaise (or alternative)
Any selection of these: spring onions, broccoli, peas (frozen), broad beans (frozen), cress, celery, olives, capers, gherkins, boiled egg, sweetcorn, red pepper, radishes, green beans
Chop the potatoes into smallish chunks - roughly 2cm.
Boil them, but be careful not to over cook. Some spuds, such as maris piper, stay firm for ages and then suddenly go to mush!
Cool the potatoes
Mix with mayo and then add some or all(!) of the selection of veggies.
Miso is not only delicious but really quite good for you and noodle salad is a great vehicle for it. It's full ofessential minerals and is a good source of B vitamins, as well as vitamins E, K and folic acid. And because it's a fermented food it also provides the gut with beneficial bacteria that aids gut health.
Red pesto (if you fancy it)
Seaweed sprinkles (if you can get them)
Cook the noodles then refresh them in cold water so that they stop cooking.
Make a dressing with miso and a touch of oil. Add a bit of red pesto to sweeten the deal if you fancy it.
Add spring onions, grated carrot, red pepper and seaweed sprinkles (if you can get them). An oh so simple prebiotic and gut healthy recipe.
Smoothies really are an opportunity to get a lot of healthy stuff in. We haven’t provided a full recipe here, more suggestions since experimenting really is the way forward here - just remember that you can always add more of something but it's harder to take away!
We always start with a base of some kind of milk, a handful of oats and a tablespoon of honey.
Our favourite thing to add then is a banana, some nuts, a nugget of frozen spinach and a spoon or so of hulled hemp. Wizz it up and away you go. The colour of this smoothie isn't that attractive but who cares.
Tinned or frozen fruit and frozen spinach work very well in smoothies and make it very convenient. There are also a multitude of packeted superfood blends that you can add in. Again, this is a great opportunity to let your kids pick their smoothie ingredients and get involved in the process.