I’m not saying ‘Abandon bread’; I am strongly urging you to find a good quality fermented sourdough loaf. These traditionally fermented breads are nutrient dense, and combined with some healthy accompaniments can further aid the feeling of fullness, therefore decreasing the overall consumption.
Fill the sandwiches with satisfying, nourishing ingredients. Best of all, let your children create their own open sandwiches with the ingredients you pack in their lunch box. To assist you with your creations, look out for the BPA-free bento boxes which have a number of different compartments so you can keep items separate.
To begin, layer two thin slices of sourdough loaf with a good quality grass-fed butter, cream cheese or hummus; place one on top of the other and leave them in the biggest compartment. In another compartment you can create the filling for the sandwich. Ingredients ideas include left-over chicken, pork, beef, lamb or sausages, tuna, salmon, sardines, grass-fed eggs or a good quality cheese. You need a decent protein to make the sandwich filling. Over and above the protein include at least four of these options: shredded lettuce leaves, grated carrot or beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, microgreens, sauerkraut, kimchi, onions, spring onions, peppers, cabbage, shredded spinach, or whatever you can get your hands on that’s in season. The more packed the sandwich, the better! This means it will be more satisfying.
Options for the other compartments could be mixed nuts, green peas, sugar snaps, sweet carrot sticks, grass-fed dry wors or biltong, along with a small well-mixed tasty salad. This could be anything from a four-bean, carrot, coleslaw or mixed green leafy salad to a tabouli made with quinoa, millet or brown rice. Add a yummy dressing and season with salt and pepper. You want to avoid iceberg lettuce and tasteless tomatoes. If you have any space left in your bento box, include some colourful fruit, like a small mixed or berry fruit salad or a simple apple or orange. The more colourful the box, the better for the person eating it, not just from a nutritional perspective but also from a tantalising sensorial view.
The food needs to look enticing. They must want to eat it. You may need to begin with treats like clean, healthy snack bars for them at the start and then slowly wean these out from a daily inclusion to a once-a-week treat. Do it gradually, especially if you have been mindlessly packing unhealthy foods or handing over money for the tuck shop. There are a number of healthy bar options out there so read the labels and investigate before randomly purchasing.
If the bars are too expensive, you could make your own date and nut balls or bars. Experiment with flavours they love. Working this way will keep them satisfied and hopefully out of the tuck shop. You also need to desensitise them to sugar and processed foods. Adjusting their palates is a continuous journey and working this way will be beneficial.
SNEAKING IN VEG
Your aim is to fill them up with vegetables rather than empty, lifeless foods. Find ways to ‘hide’ the vegetables by making good quality homemade muffins with carrots and marrows. Seed crackers with carrots, tomato and spices or there are a plethora of healthy, cold, savoury options. You could send them to school with mini frittatas filled with some of their favourite ingredients. Vegetable-packed crustless quiches, rice paper wraps or banting wraps filled to the brim with wholesome ingredients are excellent healthy choices too. Keep things simple but varied. Work on a schedule of rotating foods daily, and make sure the box is brimming with colour; it needs to have you (and them) drooling over it.
When children come home from school they shouldn’t be ravenous after all this quality food. Instead of offering more bread, make them (or teach them to make their own) smoothies. Again you can really pack in some high-end wholesome ingredients.
We are all so quick to say we don’t have the time to make healthy lunch boxes but we need to find the time. Most of these suggestions can be prepared the night before to make the pressurised mornings even easier to tackle. If parents don’t take ownership of their child’s health, who else will? We all want our kids to perform the best they can at school and in life, so we need to feed them wholesomely. Packing in the nutrients like this will also lessen the trips to the doctor. Watch your child thrive in all aspects of life by making some meaningful, healthy, hearty changes for the sake of their future.
Editor’s Note: For another inspiring article on lunch box ideas, read the article by Kath Megaw: Lunch box staples unpacked