Looking for healthy lunchbox ideas? Try these low-calorie treats

Back-to-school advice: 100-calorie snacks that should go down a treat with schoolkids

Make things more interesting by doing smaller portions of two snacks – crunchy and soft, sweet and savoury – because flavour and texture contrasts are more satisfying, too. Photograph: Getty Images

Make things more interesting by doing smaller portions of two snacks – crunchy and soft, sweet and savoury – because flavour and texture contrasts are more satisfying, too. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Parents should limit children to two 100-calorie snacks a day, according to guidelines issued earlier this year. But, as parents try to begin the school year with good lunchbox habits, what is the best approach? Putting a peeled carrot or reduced-sugar biscuit in a lunchbox is pointless; they can sniff out, and reject, worthiness – and “lighter” products are often crammed with added fat or chemicals.

For children, fun and creativity (self-assembly), are the way to go. First, buy dinky snack bags and plastic pots in which they can dip or swirl elements of their snack. Make things more interesting by doing smaller portions of two of the suggestions below – crunchy and soft, sweet and savoury – because flavour and texture contrasts are more satisfying, too.

• Commercial chocolate-dipped mini rice cakes (a favourite “healthy” snack) contain 138 calories per pack. Better still, use two large corn cakes (25 calories each) and drizzle with melted dark chocolate (the good-quality Callebaut brand comes in small pellets in big bags, so it is easy to melt just 10g, 50 calories). Alternatively, mix melted chocolate with half a teaspoon of peanut butter and sandwich the two cakes together.

• Buy a mandolin and very thinly slice a juicy apple or pear, skin on. Lay on silicone paper and bake in a low oven for about an hour, until crisp. Sprinkle with cinnamon if they like it. One whole fruit is about 95 calories and looks substantial.

• Many crisps and crunchy things are very high fat/calorie, but 15g of chana dal (spiced fried chick peas) is a flavour-packed snack of about 70 calories. Straining Greek yoghurt with a dash of lemon juice in a J-cloth overnight thickens it into a cream-cheese-like texture (25g=34 calories) – the two swirled together makes a creamy, crunchy treat, like a savoury version of those “corner” yoghurt pots.

• Shop-bought malt loaf is 104 calories for a 33g slice but Rose Prince’s delicious banana and almond cake is packed with good stuff, is far more satisfying, keeps well and makes about about 1kg. That’s 30 chunks of 100 calories each.

• Make your own popcorn with a scant dash of oil in the bottom of a saucepan with close-fitting lid. 20g of corn is 75 calories and you can drizzle the popped corn with 5g of melted chocolate to make a crunchy, sweet mess of deliciousness. Alternatively, melt together a teaspoon of maple syrup and half a teaspoon of butter (17 calories each) and toss the popcorn in that.

• If you have no time, keep a stash of shop-bought yoghurt tubes in the freezer. A decent brand is about 36 calories per serving and has the bonus of keeping other stuff in a lunchbox cool. A third of a crisped apple (35 calories) or a tablespoon of desiccated coconut (45 calories) to dip into adds texture. – Guardian

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