Taking a lunch box to school or work can be much healthier than buying meals and unhealthy snacks every day.
Packing a lunch
Taking a lunch box to school or work can be much healthier than buying meals and unhealthy snacks every day. And the added bonus is that it’s great for the budget too. Having a healthy lunch at hand helps to keep your concentration and energy levels up, enabling you and your children to tackle the demanding tasks we all face each day.
Try to include the following for a balanced, healthy lunch box:
- Reduced-fat dairy – such as low-fat milk, unsweetened yoghurt or reduced-fat cheese.
- A lean, protein rich food – anything from tinned fish, a boiled egg, beans or lentils to lean meats, such as skinless chicken or trimmed beef.
- Healthier nibbles – include healthy snacks in your lunch box so you are ready for the whole day. Try to include at least two different colours of fruits or fresh vegetables in your lunch box. Nuts and seeds are also healthy options.
- An unrefined starch – choose high-fibre or wholegrain starches, such as wholewheat bread or seed breads, wholewheat pitas or wraps, wholewheat crackers or wholewheat pasta.
- Water is still the best drink to include in a lunch box for children and adults alike. Add some fresh lemon slices or mint leaves. Freeze the bottle overnight as this makes for a refreshing drink, especially on hot summer days. Or see the ice tea recipe in Cooking from the heart 2.
Here are some tips for tasty lunch boxes when you’re working against the clock
- Try cooking in bulk on the weekend. Make a big pot of soup, curry or bolognaise and freeze into individual portions that are ready to take to work. See the soups in Cooking from the heart 1 and 2.
- Prepare your lunch box the night before and keep it in the fridge. This way you can simply grab it on your way out in the morning.
- When cooking dinner, make a bit extra and pack the leftovers into your lunch box for the next day. Pasta or rice dishes are great reheated or can be turned into a pasta or rice salad for the next day. Leftover chicken, beef or fish can be added to a sandwich or wholewheat wrap with grated carrot, lettuce, tomato and a slice of avocado. Also see the sandwich recipes in Cooking from the heart 2.
- Keep your kitchen stocked with convenient lunch box snacks like plain, unsalted nuts, dried fruit or small tubs of unsweetened yoghurt. Fresh fruit is easy to transport, takes no preparation and is packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
- Pack a few carrot sticks and some low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese for dipping.
- Make a lunch box list for your grocery shopping trip – it will help you avoid reaching for tempting, less healthy foods, and it could save you time and money too.
Packing for kids
– Pack food that looks appealing, like kebabs with cucumber and tomato.
– Keep everything fresh in a well-sealed lunch box or small cooler bag.
– Food that is a size that is easy to handle, like mini meat balls or small pieces of veggies or fruit, are more likely to be eaten.
– Pack a variety of textures and colours to ensure that the lunch is eaten and not swopped at school.
– Keep treats for special occasions, rather than every day.
– Send kids to school with a bunch of grapes or an apple instead of tuck shop money.
– Avoid fizzy or sugary cool drinks, rather enjoy diluted 100 % fruit juice or homemade ice tea.
– Water is the best choice, add lemon slices for extra flavour.
– In summer, freeze water bottles overnight to have ice cold water throughout the day. This also keeps your lunch box cool.
Packing a salad
– Keep delicate salad ingredients like lettuce separate to keep it fresh.
– Pack salad dressing in a little container and add before you eat the salad.
– Pack into a small cooler bag to keep everything fresh and crunchy.
– Cook bulk batches of soup and freeze them in individual portions.
– If you don’t have heating facilities – you can keep it warm in a flask.
– Pack fruit and nuts or avocado or wholewheat bread to enjoy with your soup.
– Pack fresh ingredients like lettuce, tomato and cucumber separately to your sandwiches – this prevents the sarmie from going soggy.
– Wrap sandwiches well in wax paper, cling wrap or foil to keep them fresh.
– Choose wholewheat or high-fibre bread, wraps, pitas or rolls.
– Avoid too many processed, salty meats like polony, Viennas or ham. Rather use chicken or fish, like tinned tuna.