Whether your child is gluten-free, or bored of the same old lunch, or perhaps you want to boost your child’s nutrient intake, there are lots of reasons why we might want to look for sandwich alternatives.
First though, you need the right equipment, starting with the mini thermos. These are actually a great buy. They are not overly expensive and are usually stainless steel and able to withstand many more playground hits than your average plastic lunchbox. These can be packed the night before (hello dinner leftovers) and kept in the fridge and will then stay cool until lunch. They are truly watertight (meant for hot tea and coffee as they are) and that is where the beauty lies. Getting a food specific one will mean it will have a nice wide opening and will not be so deep a spoon can’t reach the bottom. From Thermos we use the Foogo and Funtainer. But there are plenty of options out there.
Of course, simple plastic containers with good lids will do the trick for less liquid lunches.
Non-sandwich lunches are a brilliant way to boost veg and protein intake as well as have a break from the old ham and cheese.
The possibilities are endless. Just combine some of the things your kid likes and hey presto! you have a salad.
Getting ahead and making batches of soup you know would appeal to your kid, then freezing them is another great lunch option.
Open your mind to dinner leftovers and your lunch-making time drops dramatically.
Here are a few options to try.
“Bowls” are a trending cafe item at the moment, so follow the masses and give your kid a mix of their favourites. If salad leaves are part of the salad, rather than the base, the salad will easily hold up during the day without getting soggy. Try this basic equation for lunch salads:
- Base: try a grain like barley, rice, pasta shapes, quinoa, couscous. Most of these can be cooked and frozen in batches – ready to thaw in the fridge overnight and put into the thermos in the morning.
- Healthy bits: add a bit of baby spinach, small chopped veggies in a variety of colours (roasted, steamed or raw), tinned beans, (such as butter beans, chick peas etc), frozen podded edamame, soft boiled egg, some protein such as shredded chicken or tinned salmon or tuna
- Crunchy bits: toasted seeds or nuts, crispy fried noodles (packet), fried shallots (from the asian section in the supermarket)
- Flavour bits: try crumbled fetta, currants/sultanas/cranberries, sweet pickled onion, chopped fresh herbs, bacon bits (chopped and fried), a spoon of pesto.
Once you have mixed this combination all together, the ‘flavour bits’ tend to do the dressing, but if it needs a little more, try just a mix of lemon juice and olive oil (1:3).
Soups – great for winter
We know that keeping things simple when it comes to lunches is THE KEY! Soups can be very easy if its a case of dinner leftovers (like pumpkin soup), but if you don’t have any of those, try this method:
Step 1: Warm the base soup and put in the thermos.
Step 2: Add the “extra bits” and pop on the lid for the rest of the work to be done. The warm base will do any cooking required and the thermos will keep the soup warm til lunch.
A couple of ideas
- Miso soup (just add the paste + boiling water to their thermos and mix)
- add fresh udon noodles (or any cooked and frozen pasta you may have), podded frozen edamame beans and a halved soft boiled egg (or ramen egg).
- add shredded beef and tinned bamboo shoots
- Chicken soup
- add cooked barley, shredded poached chicken and corn
- add cooked pasta shapes, and their favourite chopped veggies
- Veggie + ginger broth
- add a spoon of pesto, some tinned butter beans (or other) and chopped green beans
- add chickpeas, fresh chopped tomatoes (or halved cherry toms) and chopped basil
- add cooked quinoa, chopped celery, capsicum and corn kernels
From spaghetti Bolognese or meatballs, to pumpkin soup or stir-fry, there is nothing the thermos can’t handle. Every now and then it’s nice to treat your kids to some comfort food at lunch. Try a cold test-run on your kid. Mine don’t seem to mind cold stir-fry or Bolognese, or even sausage rolls! The best thing is that it’s so easy to put dinner left-overs directly into the thermos during dinner clean up, keep in the fridge overnight and then into the school bag in the morning. Or of course, reheat and pop into the thermos in the morning and the food will still be warm at lunch. Just don’t forget the fork!
PS Recipes for veggie and ginger broth, and chicken soup will be up on the blog next week