10 easy, healthy lunchbox ideas

We dusted off our lunchboxes this week as my girls returned to their various preschool activities after the summer holidays.

On Monday I certainly struggled to think of good lunchbox fillers and have been trying to put more thought into it as the week has gone on.

My eldest daughter needs a packed lunch four days a week now. Ideally I’d love these lunches to be varied, healthy, homemade, tasty and desirable, without being too stressful for me to put together.

To me a healthy lunch is one full of real food and real ingredients. I try to limit the amount of refined white sugar, refined white flour, hydrogenated oils, trans-fats, skim milk powder, MSG, preservatives, fake colours and flavours.

Here’s a list of 10 easy and healthy lunchbox fillers that work for us.

  1.  Homemade yoghurt topped with frozen blueberries – We have an EsiYo maker which I use to make Greek yoghurt. For the girls’ lunches I scoop a few tablespoons into a pottle and sprinkle frozen blueberries over the top to keep the yoghurt cool and add a bit of sweetness and flavour. By the time morning tea comes around, the blueberries have melted and drizzled the yoghurt in pink.
  2. Frozen fruit desserts – I often make smoothies for the girls as a snack when we’re at home. If there’s heaps left over, I mix it with a little gelatine dissolved in boiling water and freeze it in small pottles in the freezer. These are easy to pull out for lunches and because of the gelatine, will hold their form even as they start to melt in the girls’ lunchboxes. Including a frozen dessert also helps keep other things in the lunchbox cool, making it easier to include things like meat, cheese or chopped fruit.
  3. Mini fruit crumbles – This is something I haven’t tried yet, but am thinking could work. In individual silicone muffin molds or ceramic ramekins, make and bake a heap of fruit crumbles. Use whatever fruit is falling from the trees at the time, like feijoas or apples, to make this an affordable snack. Freeze the crumbles in their molds and cover with baking paper secured with a rubber band to hold it all together. I’m thinking the fruit crumble would slowly defrost in your child’s lunchbox and hopefully be soft enough to eat cold by morning tea/lunch time.
  4. Chopped or whole fruit and vegetables – It’s stating the obvious but a container offering one or two of the following will help to get fresh fruit and vegetables with all their lovely antioxidants into your child. For vegetables try cherry tomatoes, avocado slices, cucumber pieces, carrot sticks, celery sticks, capsicum slices, frozen peas, beans or broccoli florets. Popular fruit options with my girls are apples, nectarines, grapes, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, mandarins and pineapple.
  5. Popcorn – It’s really easy to cook up a pot of organic* popcorn on the stove in less than five minutes. I like to cook mine in butter and add Himalayan rock salt for extra minerals. The popcorn fills the salty/savoury requirement of the lunchbox, and I’m happy to include it because I know it only has the three ingredients – popcorn, butter and natural salt – which are all nutritious and delicious. (*The reason I buy organic popcorn is to ensure it’s not genetically modified.)
  6. Home baking – Soaked oat and fruit muffins are very tasty and provide longer lasting energy than your regular white flour muffin. Banana bread or raisin bread are nice with butter and jam or honey. Grain-free chocolate brownies pack a big nutritional punch and the kids love their chocolatey flavour. Zucchini-infused treats like zucchini chocolate cake and zucchini chocolate chip cookies sneak vegetables into home baking and add a pleasant moistness.
  7. Homemade crackers with spreads or cheese – Only the good stuff in these homemade crackers. Make up a big batch and store them in an airtight container so they will stay fresh for a few weeks. These are more fiddly to make than popcorn, so just aim to make one batch a term and save your sanity.
  8. Kebab sticks – Thread ham or preservative-free luncheon on a skewer alternated with cheese cubes, cherry tomatoes and pineapple chunks for a protein punch the kids will love. Pack a chiller pad or frozen dessert in the lunchbox to keep the meat and cheese cool.
  9. Tortilla rollups – Spread various toppings on a homemade tortilla, roll it into a log and slice at three centimetre intervals to make savoury rollups. Toppings could be as simple as peanut butter and honey, or as extravagant as hummus, grated cheese, luncheon, grated carrot and lettuce.
  10. Pull-apart cheesey scrolls – Admittedly these do contain white flour, but they’re a fun alternative to sandwiches and buns. You can mix up the fillings to suit your child’s taste. Ham, cheese and pineapple go down well, but my girls also enjoy the more gourmet version I like to make which has cream cheese, sundried tomato, basil pesto and sunflower seeds.

So there you have it. 10 lunchbox ideas to set you on your way this New Year.

What other lunchbox fillers have you had great success with? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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