The start of a new year is a great time for changing up our old routines: out with unhealthy and in with the healthy.
But packing healthy school lunches is a full time job and if you are not creative and unsure of yourself, then it’s not easy.
Parents should be flexible and realistic as they transition into this back-to-school season.
In trying to keep you little ones healthy, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA), Zelda Ackerman says children need very little protein.
“It is thus not advisable to pack protein-rich foods like biltong, droë wors, cheese, or viennas for snacks. A small, healthy protein like peanut butter, cheese, or cottage cheese can be part of a packed lunch. Most children consume too little fruit, vegetables, and dairy. Make sure you pack plenty of these foods and be sure to pack a variety,” says Ackerman
She adds that many children aren’t fussy or bothered by food and rather want to play at break time. “If your child is one of these, especially if the school does not give kids a time to eat before break time, it is important to pack something which they can grab and go. Otherwise, they may just return their snack/lunchbox untouched,” says Ackerman
“Kids look at each other’s lunch boxes. Make sure your children will be proud to open theirs. Pack food that looks fresh and appetising. Avoid packing foods with strong odours that the whole class will smell when opened. For this reason stay away from fish, eggs, broccoli, and cauliflower. Rather give these nutritious foods at home,” Ackerman added.
Make the morning rush a little easier with healthy lunch box recipes that all kids will love.
Plums, peaches and nectarines, known collectively as stone fruit, pack a nutritious punch offering generous helpings of vitamins and other essential nutrients to keep budding learners sharp throughout the day.
Celebrity chef, Jenny Morris, has created two moreish lunch box salads that tick all the right boxes. Her peach and bulgar wheat salad is a super easy and satisfying meal that can be prepared the night before. It is an absolutely yummy and filling alternative to regular school sandwiches, guaranteed to keep hunger pangs at bay.
Morris’s nectarine and smoked chicken salad is another substantial lunch box meal your children will tuck into with glee. Bursting with colour and flavour, it is quick and easy to whip up.
For something sweet when energy stores start running low, Morris’s plum jelly treats are the perfect lunchbox filler. These homemade treats are great for on the go snacking.
Chef Karen Hart’s peachy whole wheat muffins are a super nutritious lunch box filler. They are easy to make ahead of time and are sure to stay fresh and go the distance.
Plums, peaches and nectarines are naturally sweet super fruit with a low glycaemic index (GI). They are high in fibre and abound in health-giving potassium and vitamins A, C and E, all-powerful antioxidants that protect against disease and help to build healthy minds and bodies.
Nectarine and Smoked Chicken Lunch Box
By Jenny Morris
1 cup cooked bulgar wheat
Zest of 1 yellow lemon
2 Tbsp chopped mint
1 cup cucumber, chopped or thinly sliced
2 large firm nectarines stone removed and chopped
300g chopped smoked chicken breast
30g toasted almonds chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Stir together and season to taste.
Place all the ingredients together in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and lightly toss together, add the dressing and stir together gently.
Divide into 4 portions and pack into lunch boxes.
Plum Jelly Treats
By Jenny Morris
Makes: 24 – 30 (depending on the size of the mould)
15 plums, halved and stoned
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup caster sugar
6 Tbsp gelatin powder
Silicone mould of your choice
Non-stick cooking spray
Place the plums in a small saucepan with the water and simmer until soft.
Place in a blender and process until smooth.
Strain the liquid through a sieve and return to the pot (alternatively, if you have a juicer, simply juice the fruit and place in the saucepan).
Add the caster sugar and dissolve over low heat.
Sponge the gelatin in a little water, according to the package instructions.
Once, sponged, place the gelatin in the warm plum liquid and stir to dissolve.
Lightly spray your mould with the non-stick spray and place on a baking tray.
Carefully pour the liquid into the mould – using a jug – and place in the fridge for an hour and a half, or until set. Pop out and enjoy!
Whole Wheat Peach Muffins
By Karen Hart
Makes 12 muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cake flour
11/2 cup oats
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
11/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
11/2 cups peeled and diced fresh peaches or nectarines (2 peaches/nectarines)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup sunflower or canola oil
Extra oats to sprinkle on top (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir in the peaches. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, vanilla, honey, oil and egg. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until it is just mixed. Spoon the batter into a 12-hole muffin tin, lined with paper liners. Sprinkle a little oats over each muffin (optional). Bake in a preheated oven of 180ºC for 18 - 20 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before serving.