Lunchbox Tips from the Lunchbox Doctor

The winter term is drawing to a close and if, like me, you’re starting to run out of lunchbox inspiration we’ve teamed up with The Lunchbox Doctor Jenny Tschiesche author of ‘Real Lunchtime Food’ to help give you some tips.

  • Not just sandwiches If you’ve got stuck in a rut, eating or making the same sandwich every day then try taking the sandwich out of the equation. Of course, a sandwich is by far the most popular lunchbox component. It’s simple to make and convenient to eat so the reasons for its popularity are clear. Yet, because it is so easy and convenient it is very easy to allow lunches to become the same day in and day out. However, when Lunchbox Doctor started out it was called ‘Not Just Sandwiches’. The very ethos of what was just a blog back then was to identify healthy alternatives to sandwiches for packed lunches so that more nutritious lunches could be made and eaten daily. This concept holds even today and there is a whole chapter dedicated to this subject and of the same title in my new book Real Lunchtime Food. Think savoury pancakes, cheesy oat slices and crustless quiches and you get an idea of how diverse sandwich alternatives can be.
  • Say yes to veg  Don’t miss the opportunity to get portions of vegetables and fruit into lunches. Often, a packed lunch becomes just fuel and not a nutritious meal. A sandwich, crisps and sweet-treat combo leaves little room for vegetable and fruit portions. Start thinking about where vegetables and fruit might find their way into a nutritious lunchbox in a way that will still be enjoyed. For example, adding vegetables into dips, savoury slices or pancakes, serving vegetable soups or even leftover casserole or stew from the night before can be a canny way to get more of your 5 -a-day. Fresh fruit doesn’t just have to be served as is, it can also be combined with yogurt, used in baked goods (as can vegetables for that matter – think carrot cake and beyond) or served with a dip such a nut butter. Dried fruit is fantastic in salads or in a trail mix – a combination of seeds and nuts, dried coconut, popcorn, and dried fruit.
  • Eat with your eyes There is a well-known saying; “we eat with our eyes”. The thought process here is based in scientific fact. If we find food more visually appealing, then we start to get more excited by the prospect of eating it and produce more digestive secretions in response. With more digestive secretions we are better able to extract the nutrients from the food we are eating. So, the way foods look contributes to how much nutritional benefit we can derive from it. Serving food in a visually appealing way is therefore important. To that end think about who is eating the food and where. Can it be transported as a layered salad in a glass jar (more suited to teens than younger children) or in a bento box where all the food is on show and easily accessible. There are suitable bento boxes based on the age and size of your child on the market for a variety of budgets. The gist here is to spend some time thinking about how appetising food will look by lunchtime and ensuring it looks appealing 4 hours or so after it has been packed.
  • Save money In this day and age when we are surrounded by food, and cheap food at that, wherever we go it is easy to make some very poor food choices that we believe are saving us money. However, meal deals and BOGOFs can still cost us more than buying the raw ingredients and making lunchtime foods at home. Not only that but the food we end up buying on offer is often not the healthiest or the best quality. You can save money and eat healthier by purchasing the ingredients to make your own lunches at home. Also, consider buying larger packets of foods that you know are both healthy and are going to get eaten then decant into smaller portions for lunches and/or freeze some portions for later. Bread is a great example of somewhere you can save money by getting a good quality loaf sliced at the shop or bakery then freeze it in portions for future use.
  • Be in control  There are days when you or your child need more and days when you need less food or sustenance. Relying on what you can go and buy or get from the canteen can be a risky business, particularly on a busy or active day. If there’s a rugby match, double dance or an after- school event your child must attend they’re going to need more food than a standard day and packing a suitably sized lunch means you can provide for that eventuality. Packing lunches at home also makes for safer lunches for those who have any food allergies or intolerance. If you are avoiding certain ingredients, then you’ll often be able to provide a far wider range of options for lunches if making these at home and they are likely to be more nutritionally varied too.

These are just some of the tips nutritionist and author Jenny Tschiesche BSc (Hons) Dip (ION) FdSc BANT has kindly shared with us. For more ideas and tons of healthier lunchbox recipes we highly recommend her new book Real Lunchtime Food.

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