You want to send your child off to school or kindy with a healthy packed lunch, but how do you ensure they look forward to lunchtimes and eat what you give them? It’s all down to taste and variety, but also quick and easy options, which can be rustled up in next to no time.
The UK’s number one parenting author, children’s food expert (and now Sassy Mama guest columnist!) Annabel Karmel shares her delicious lunchbox recipes to inspire mamas and brighten up your child’s day – they are perfect for the whole family too!
Annabel’s Top Lunchbox Tips
Together with your child, plan what they are going to have in their lunchbox two or three days ahead. If you can, spend time together at the weekend preparing some food for the week ahead. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to do too much in the mornings!
Sandwiches are a safe bet, but growing children need variety. Try pita pockets with fillings like tuna, chopped egg, sweetcorn and mayonnaise. Or consider making sandwiches from ciabatta, bagels or mini baguettes. Tortilla wraps are the new trendy sandwich.
Raw vegetables tend to be popular with children, especially with a tasty hummus dip. Prepare sticks of carrot, sweet pepper and cucumber, and wrap them in damp kitchen paper to prevent them drying out.
Crisps and chocolate biscuits tend to contain few nutrients and too much salt, sugar, additives and saturated fat. Instead, try offering rice cakes, toasted seeds flavoured with honey and yoghurt-covered raisins or dried apricots.
With some schools banning chocolate, cereal bars are often substituted for confectionery or biscuits. However, it is well worth checking the labels, as some cereal bars have a sugar content of more than 40 per cent, and a fat content of more than 30 per cent. For a more nutritious alternative, why not make your own flapjacks, cookies or muffins (see Annabel’s delicious recipe below!).
A healthy lunch won’t get their vote if it doesn’t look appealing. Simple touches can make all the difference such as bite-size chunks of fruit threaded onto a straw.
ORIENTAL PLUM CHICKEN WRAPS
From ‘Quick & Easy Toddler Recipes’ Ebury Press
These were my children’s favourite wraps – quick and delicious, they are perfect in a lunchbox!
Ingredients 4 tbsp mayonnaise 1 tbsp plum sauce 1 cooked chicken breast, sliced Quarter small cucumber, thinly sliced into strips 4 spring onions, sliced into strips 4 tortilla wraps
Method Mix the mayonnaise and plum sauce together. Spread a little mayonnaise mixture along one side of a wrap. Top with chicken, spring onion and cucumber. Roll up, and then slice into three pieces on the diagonal. Wrap in cling film.
Makes 12 pieces
FINGER PICKING CHICKEN BALLS
From ‘Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner’ Ebury Press
The grated apple adds a delicious flavour to these chicken balls which makes them appealing to children and they are delicious cold or hot. Include a little tomato ketchup for dipping.
Ingredients 2 large chicken breasts, cut into chunks 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 1 tbsp chopped parsley 1 tsp fresh or ½ tsp dried thyme (optional) 50g (2 oz) fresh white breadcrumbs 1 large green apple, peeled and grated 1 chicken stock cube dissolved in1 tbsp boiling water flour for coating vegetable oil for frying salt and freshly ground pepper
Method Using your hands, squeeze out a little excess liquid from the grated apple. Mix together the first seven ingredients and chop in a food processor for a few seconds. Season with a little salt and pepper. With your hands, form into about 20 balls, roll in flour and fry in shallow oil until lightly golden and cooked through (about 15 minutes).
Makes 20 Chicken Balls
Suitable for freezing
APPLE AND CARROT MUFFINS
From ‘Lunchboxes’ Ebury Press
The apple in these muffins makes them wonderfully moist. These are also fun to make with your children.
Ingredients 75g carrot 125g butter, softened 125g caster sugar 1 egg 200 ml milk Quarter tsp salt 225g plain flour 1 tbsp baking powder Half tsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cinnamon 75g carrot, grated 150g dessert apples, peeled and grated 75g sultanas A little Demerara sugar
Method Preheat the oven to 180 C Fan / 200 C / Gas 6. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
Measure all of the ingredients into a free standing mixer and whisk until combined. Spoon into the cases. Sprinkle evenly with Demerara sugar. Bake for about 20 to 22 minutes until well risen and lightly golden.
Makes 12 muffins
Suitable for freezing
For plenty more recipe ideas that your kids will love, try Annabel’s new cookbook Quick and Easy Toddler Recipes (published by Ebury Press), which is filled with food inspiration for the whole family.
And if you’re a busy parent on the go, now you can be prepared with Annabel’s Essential Guide to Feeding Your Baby & Toddler app, available to download on Google Play or iTunes or visit the Annabel Karmel website. With instant access to 200 delicious, nutritious, easy-to-follow recipes, as well as advice, tips and recipe videos, it’s the ultimate guide to help parents shop for, prep and cook delicious food for babies, children and the whole family.
Annabel Karmel MBE is a modern-day “mamapreneur” – juggling life as a busy working mother of three with a hugely successful career. Since launching her Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner more than 20 years ago, Annabel has written 27 books, which have sold over four million copies worldwide, covering every stage of a child’s development. With more than 20 years’ experience under her apron, Annabel has become the UK’s number one parenting author, best-selling international author and expert on devising delicious, nutritious meals for babies and children.