Five tasty lunch box ideas that your kids will actually eat

Mixing it up every day and getting kids involved helps ensure lunch boxes come home empty

Think outside the lunch box  and give these pizza pin wheels a go.

Think outside the lunch box and give these pizza pin wheels a go.

 

Trying to be imaginative about school packed lunches day in, day out can be a chore for any parent, especially with so many rules and regulations to consider such as food allergy lists and healthy eating policies.

It’s a challenge in itself to find robust food items that can withstand being knocked about the lunch box at the bottom of a school bag, let alone keeping in mind the ones that become pungent over any length of time in a closed zip lock bag. (I’m looking at you egg sandwich!)

In my cookbook, Family Food Made Easy, I have a whole section dedicated to “Thinking Outside the Lunch Box” as it is such an integral part of the family diet.

Did you know that the school lunch provides your child with around one-third of their daily nutritional needs?

So it is important to plan and give it a little thought as to what goes in there.

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‘Variety is the spice of life’ so tick off all the main food groups like carbohydrates, protein, dairy, and fruit and vegetables.

Mixing it up every day and getting the kids involved with making their lunches is so important; they are far more likely to eat it if they have control over what goes into it.

In an ideal world we would be sending them in with flasks of hot soup and pasta salads! But on researching the Irish lunch box, the majority of kids are more likely to eat something that they can grab quickly then go and play.

So without further ado, here are my top five lunch ideas that kids will actually eat...

1. Lunch Box Roly Polys
Sandwiches have been the staple of school lunches since the beginning of time. Lunch box ‘roly polys’ turn the bog-standard sandwich into tasty little sushi-style bites. Your bread slice is transformed by cutting off the crusts and rolling it flat with a rolling pin. Fill it with your favourite sandwich filling, roll it all up and slice it into bite-sized morsels. The kids love them because they are bite-sized and have no crusts, meaning empty lunch boxes.

2. Pizza Pinwheels
Pizza pinwheels are such a hit with the smallies, you may find they disappear fresh out of the oven. The kids just adore helping to make these, an extra batch may be needed, so be warned! (Or just gently remind them they are for the lunch box.) To make, unroll 1 pack of ready-made pastry and spread a tablespoon of tomato puree evenly over it. Sprinkle with oregano and grated cheddar, then scatter on some pepperoni. Roll the pastry back up, and slice into 2cm pieces. Place cut side up on a baking tray and top with a little more cheese. Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees, until golden.

3. Banana Oat Bars
Banana and oat bars are a quick and easy lunch box treat with no added refined sugar. To make, mash three ripe bananas in a bowl. Add two tablespoons of melted butter, a fresh egg and 200g of rolled oats. If you like, you can add a sprinkle of dried fruit - raisins, apricots or cranberries - and a little maple syrup for sweetness. Mix all the ingredients together then pour the mixture onto a lined baking tray, spreading it out evenly with a spoon. Bake for 20 minutes at 180?. Slice into bars when cooled.

4. Mini Egg Muffins
Mini egg muffins are another handy option if you’re stuck in a bit of a sandwich rut. The options for fillings are sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil, or a little chorizo and red pepper for something a bit different. Or you can stick to the classic with cheese, ham and chives. To make six mini muffins, whisk three eggs in a large mixing bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Add 150mls of milk and a scattering of ham and cheese. Take a muffin tin and fill each hole with the egg mixture, topping with a little extra cheese and a sprinkle of chives. Oven bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees, until they are firm to the touch.

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