Thinking Differently About the Lunch Box

March 14, 2012

The lunch box fills me with dread. I likened it to a monster in this article I wrote for Coles: The Lunch Box Monster.  You see, every school day, I need to think of food items to include in 3-4 lunch boxes that are healthy, yum and will keep well. It’s a huge challenge for me.

Thinking Differently About the Lunch Box

This past couple of weeks, I’ve been chatting to mum of two and dietitian Kate Di Prima about lunch box food. There are two main things I’ve trialed:

1. Including More Protein: Protein provides long lasting energy for kids.  I now look for ways to include some form of protein like lean red meat (beef and lamb), fish, egg or legumes (like baked beans). Kate tells me these deliver a boost of essential nutrients – particularly iron – needed for concentration and being active.

2. Using Leftovers: Saving food from dinner to convert into food for the lunch box, saves both time and money.

In the past, I have been afraid to use meat in the lunch box because I’m worried it will spoil. However, by using a insulated lunch bag with an ice brick, meat keeps, and my kids eat it at the first break.  Kate tells me this is safe and has more brilliant lunch box tips here: Lunch Box Tips.

A Week of School Lunches

This is the sort of inspiration I needed: For a week, I converted our family dinners into lunches for the kids.  It was fabulous and changed the way I think about lunch box food.

All the recipes are easy and delicious (especially the Tandoori Lamb Chops and Chicken Burrito Wraps) and are here on the blog via the links below.  I have also listed all the food items I used in the lunch box too.

lunch box ideas

1.

Sunday Dinner: Tandoori Lamb Chops

Monday Lunch Box

Lunch: Tin corn, cherry tomatoes, lamb chop

Baked: Banana cake

Fruit: Blueberries

Snack: Rice Crackers

School Lunch Box Ideas

2.

Monday Dinner: Tuna Pasta Bake

Tuesday Lunch Box

Lunch: Cold Tuna Pasta Salad

Baked: Hot cross bun

Fruit: Nectarine

Snack: Carrots and Snow Peas

lunch box recipe ideas

3.

Tuesday Dinner: Winter Meatloaf

Wednesday Lunch Box

Lunch: Snow peas & cherry tomato with mini meatloaf with tomato sauce as a dipper.

Baked: Mini coconut bread

Fruit: Pear

Snack: Corn on the Cob

lunch box recipe ideas

4.

Wednesday Dinner: Mexican Chicken Burrito Wraps

Thursday Lunch Box

Lunch: Chick Wrap

Baked: Fruit Salad Muffins

Fruit: Pear

Snack: Corn on the cob & carrot stick

lunch box ideas

5.

Thursday Dinner: Corned Beef

Friday Lunch Box

Lunch: Corned beef and mustard sandwich

Baked: Fruit Salad Muffins

Fruit: Banana

Snack: Half an avocado (leave the seed in and sprinkle a bit of lemon juice to ensure freshness)

lunch box ideas -- corned beef sandwich

6.

Friday Dinner: Family Pizza

Lunch Box Idea

Lunch: Pizza

Fruit: Black grapes

Vegetables: Tin corn & carrot

Snack: Rice Crackers

Lunch box ideas -- pizza

Printable

If you want all the recipes in one PDF, click here: Family Dinners and Lunch Box Ideas

What I Have Found

This challenge has changed the way I think about food for the lunch box. We now eat less protein at dinner, and include more during the day.  I noticed a marked difference in my own energy levels, and my children too. My daughter came home from school one day and said, “The meat in my lunch box makes me fuller.”

As a bonus, it takes less time to prepare the lunch boxes because they already half done.  So, if you’re looking for lunch box inspiration, think about converting leftovers from dinner into lunch the next day. This makes it easy to include some form of protein in the lunch box.

I still don’t love making lunches but I feel inspired as an entire new range of food ideas has been opened up to me.

Links

Kate Di Prima Website

Kate Di Prima Blog

*Kate Di Prima provided me the dinner recipes and I made up my own lunch box ideas.

Lunch Boxes

I purchased the lunch boxes in the photos from Lunchboxes With Love. They are a Bento brand which are brilliant.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

TrishNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 7:11 am

Some great ideas here , though we don’t have many leftovers. I need to cook more maybe so we do.

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 7:13 am

We don’t usually have many leftovers either but I planned to cook a little more and it saved me heaps of time…plus I found the kids weren’t quite as hungry at dinner.

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MelissaNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 7:14 am

What lovely lunches you create! So much more inspired than the Vegemite sandwiches I grew up with. Your kids most love opening up their lunch boxes. Everything looks fun to eat and great idea to use leftovers, I love your photo guide too.

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MarinaNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 7:18 am

Kelly you are an inspiration. My lunch boxes have been getting a little daggy lately. It’s funny my kids want plain foods for school (Spread sanga, piece of fruit and homemade something for morning tea) – but will eat just about anything at home (vege slices etc).
So it’s what they want for school and what I want them to have when they get home! Tolerated compromise :)

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CATHNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 7:27 am

What an awesome post Kelly. Leftovers are great to use! Time & Money saver for sure.

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MaritaNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

Thank you for the inspiration. I’m totally going to try corn on the cob in Annie’s lunch – she is almost vegetarian and I’m struggling to find food for her lunch box. Cheese and boiled eggs are great. We’ve always included extra protein in Heidi’s lunch boxes as I learned early on it helped avert meltdowns.

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ShannonNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 7:34 am

I actually like doing the lunches, I use food picks etc from Lunchboxes With Love & they’re great. I was a bit wary of including meat in the boxes but might give it a try more often. We use little lady beetle shaped silicon pans to make ricotta bakes with spinach & corn which the kids love. Bought the pans from a cheap shop for $2.

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 7:40 am

Can you come live with me Shannon? Ha. LOVE the fruit picks from LBWL too.

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ShannonNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 9:35 pm

LOL sorry Kelly, already had a teacher ask me to adopt her. Sad but true, it’s my only creative outlet at the moment.

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GemmaNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 9:38 am

My mum must have been before her time, I often had leftovers in my lunch box :)
She always put meat in there – no cooler brick, no fridge and I ate it at lunch time. It never spoiled and I never got sick. Perhaps I have a tough stomach ;)

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TierneyNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I like making mini-quiches in muffin trays. They freeze and can be thrown into a lunch box still frozen to defrost before lunch. Also, we often use left-overs such as sushi and left-over pasta. The boys love sushi. I usually have to cook extras anyway as my husband has left-overs while he is working night shifts.

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Mothers DayNo Gravatar March 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Oh my. Can I just say I’m very jealous that your child get’s to eat those amazing lunches! He must think you are the best Mum in the world! Great photos too.

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NicoleNo Gravatar April 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm

okay……I’m 40 but can you adopt me as your child??? Unfortunately my fusspots would turn their nose up at such delights. (sigh)

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JuleeNo Gravatar July 15, 2012 at 6:22 am

Love these ideas but unfortunately my children don’t have access to a microwave to heat any of these types of lunches. I’ve ended the complaining about lunch in my household by having my kids make their own once they enter kindergarten. Call me a lazy mom, but I haven’t had any complaints either. LOL

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Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar August 3, 2012 at 11:04 am

My kids don’t have access to a fridge either but all of these things can be enjoyed cold too. When I talked to the dietitian, she said protein can be kept very safely in a lunchbox with a cold pack. Read more of her tips here –> http://beafunmum.com/2012/03/lunch-box-tips/

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PJNo Gravatar January 23, 2013 at 9:04 am

Just a FYI our Kindergarten was advised by the Office Early Childhood Education and Care that we are not to have children bring lunches in cooler bags with or without ice bricks because once the bag is opened (just say morning tea) and leaves warm air in it then closes the warm air in when you pack it away for lunch. As a result we bought large fridges so we didn’t have to worry about it anymore as everyone is contstantly telling you something different!!

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bethNo Gravatar January 23, 2013 at 9:42 am

If only that was enough food for my 7 year old boy!! I send 3 peices of fruit, cheese and crackers, muesli bar, sandwich, yoghurt and a salami stick or some deli meat and nothing comes home!!

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Kylie @ My ChartNo Gravatar September 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I am all about organisation (www.mychart.com.au) so I intentionally cook extra dinner so we can all have left overs the next day. It takes the stress out of what to put in lunch boxes, and I am already cooking the meal, so what’s a bit more to make life easier? =)
I think kids like a leftover meal instead of sometimes anyway! It is a treat, like ordering tuckshop!

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LISHANo Gravatar September 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I LOVE this idea of converting leftovers into lunch. School starts early here and finishes by lunchtime but still these are great ideas. Also hope to share on my parenting page on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ConsciousParentingApproach – inviting you and your fans to come check us out! See you there!!

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