Pump up the school lunchbox

Start the school year with new ideas to add nutritional punch and fun to packed lunches for your little one.

13 February 2019
By Glynis Horning

Rethink the sarmie

Sandwiches are lunchbox staples but can become boring. Give them a healthy new spin.

Ditch white or plain brown bread for seed loaf, whole-grain bread, whole-wheat raisin bread or banana bread, or whole-grain pita pockets, says Johannesburg registered dietitian Debby Watkins. (Check out your local bakery if you haven’t the energy to bake your own.)

Use two mismatched slices of different types of bread for fun – trim the edges so they line up, and keep the crusts (use them for croutons when you next serve soup).

Try your hand at whole-grain waffles: Preheat the waffle iron while you whisk together 1½C flour, 2t baking powder, ½t salt and 2T sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 large egg, 1½C lukewarm milk and ⅓C vegetable oil. Stir together until just combined, and cook as you would any waffle.

For sandwich fillings or waffle toppings, use peanut or other nut butters (good sources of protein and vitamin E). Instead of jam, use mashed fresh raspberries or strawberries, or sliced/mashed banana, or finely chopped apple or pear dusted with cinnamon, or just a generous sprinkling of raisins.

Other wholesome fillings are leftover shredded chicken with baby spinach leaves, sliced strawberries and honey mustard; or thin slices of low-salt ham and fresh pear. 

A healthier take on cheese and crackers

These old lunchbox standbys can pack a lot of saturated fat, and some cheeses use artificial colourants, while ordinary crackers tend to be low in fibre and high in salt, says Watkins. For a healthier twist, use whole-wheat crisp breads, and replace ordinary Cheddar with the reduced-fat variety or mozzarella, or stir 2 tablespoons of mashed fresh berries into ¼C of cottage cheese. 

Alternatively, serve whole-wheat bread sticks with a cheesy dip. Blend 8T of cottage cheese with ¼C chopped sweet red peppers and ¼t dried basil. Pop a third in a small dipping container in your child’s lunchbox, and keep the rest in the fridge. 

For the bread sticks, set your oven to 230˚C. Dissolve 1T quick yeast and 1t sugar in 1C warm water. Let sit 10 mins. Then stir in 1t salt, 2T olive oil, 1t Italian seasoning, 2.5C bread flour (1.5C whole-wheat, 1C white). Knead for a minute, form a ball and let sit 10 minutes. Spread on a greased sheet and score halfway through with a serrated knife to make sticks. Let sit 10 more minutes. Spray with olive oil cooking spray and top with a grating of Parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes on the top rack. 

Finally, soup it up

Make a summer ‘soup’ by blending 1½C strawberries, ½C plain non-fat Greek yoghurt, 1T honey, 2T low-fat milk and 1T lime juice until smooth. Pour into a thermos for your child. Save half in the fridge for the next day, or treat yourself!  

“Keep in mind that you need to provide a balance of carbs, protein, fat and always some fruit and veg,” says Watkins. “So, for example, a jam sandwich is no good, as it’s just carbs. And a chicken sandwich needs salad.”

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com