Lunch in a box – what’s out and what’s in for 2016

With school back in full swing and mothers, fathers and carers working back into a routine, the weekly lunch menus are now up for debate. Hearing that our nation’s lunchbox staple the vegemite sandwich has taken a kick from nutritionists for its lack of sustenance and nutritional value for our growing children, it’s now a challenge for all parents to come up with healthy lunch box ideas that don’t come in colourful crackly plastic.

So while the weekday-clock ticks away, amongst the morning hustle and bustle in getting out the door, here are a few lunch ideas for the whole family to enjoy.

First tip: make a plan for the week, sit down with your children and set up a menu of what they would like, making sure to have suggestions for them to choose from that are easy for you to prepare. Grab some magazines or cook books so that everyone is in the same boat and all the talk is about healthy lunch box ideas.

Second tip: The way to stay sane and in control is to get organised. Once you have established the menu, go shopping and stick to your list. Taking the kids shopping may seem like a great idea but for a more efficient way of shopping try to leave them at home or get them to each choose four things off your shopping list to find for you.

Third tip: When shopping, avoid highly processed meats, cheeses, and drinks.
Opt to save the lollies, dried fruit bars, chips and chocolates for special occasions on the weekend and encourage your family and children to eat healthy better choice foods during the week.
Fourth tip: Mix up the breads with rye lavosh wraps, corn, pink or green vegetable tortillas are great for colour; seeded and multigrain breads and bread rolls and mini bagels are handy and not so messy.

Fifth tip: Rice paper rolls and sushi are a great alternative and can be made the night before. Fillings can include chopped chicken, grated apple, avocado, lettuce with a light mayonnaise, curried egg with spinach, tuna mixed with sour cream and corn, diced vegetables and salsa.
Sixth tip: Instead of sugary jams and chocolate pastes, opt for firm ricotta blended with banana and cinnamon; whole nut spreads with sultanas and lettuce. For savoury lunch spreads go for hummus, tzatziki, salsa, pesto and low fat cream cheese.
Seventh Tip: Use left over vegetables and meat, dice up and mix with rice, pasta or couscous for a healthy salad. For snacks, add in toasted pita bread, rice crackers or corn thins with low fat dip; cubed cheese and cherry tomatoes; home popped pop corn, savoury muffins, vegetable slices or whole meal fruit muffins.

Final tip: I encourage you to get your children involved in the baking of muffins, healthy slices and also to select and create their favourite healthy snack to take to school. Variety in all aspects of the lunch box is the key in keeping you and your family happy and healthy and you will discover that the lunch box chore will become a pleasure.

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