How to make creative packed lunches for kids
Creating packed lunches every day for your child can start to feel repetitive and leave you feeling uninspired. We have created a guide on the tips and tricks to help add some fun and creativity back into your child’s lunch box. It doesn’t take a fantastic chef or a lot of money to follow these simple tips, so read on to spot an idea your child will love.
On your next food shop buy foods that will be a great addition to a mezze platter. With this, you can create a DIY lunch for your child! This will help engage your child with their food and hopefully make lunchtimes more fun. We recommend crackers, grapes, cheese slices, celery sticks, tomatoes and you could even add a mini pot of hummus. When your kids open their lunch, they can be excited to decide on their own flavour combination. A delicious snack to add to a DIY packed lunch would be a variety of sliced fruit and a small pot of peanut butter for them to use as a dip.
Brigitte Gemme, from Vegan Family Kitchen, is a mum of two young children who also shares information about whole foods plant-based meal planning and prepping. Brigitte told us her tips for packed lunches: “Serve everything in small portions and cut into ready-to-eat pieces. Don’t bother packing empty calories! Every bite should nourish your child. Aim for foods that slowly release their energy, such as legumes and whole grains, to prevent sugar rushes… and crashes. Aim for at least 3 different bright colours in the lunch.”
Characters and shapes
Children, especially when they’re young, are more likely to want to eat their food if it looks colourful and playful. Surprise your children when they open their packed lunch with food in fun shapes or characters. Creating ‘monster sandwiches’ is an easy way to do this. Use a bun that will act as the ‘body’ of the monster, fill it with sliced cheese (you can cut the edges to look like teeth) and ham. A great idea for the eyes is to add two olives on cocktail sticks to the top of the bun. There are lots of different combinations to make your kid’s sandwiches resemble their favourite cartoon characters or animals. A healthier alternative is to use wholemeal pita bread topped with hummus, which can act as the ‘glue’, then add face-like features using olives, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Sabina from the blog Mummy Matters says: “For our younger children, we make sandwiches into faces or little animals and use the bento style lunch boxes to provide a little bit of everything. We try to include protein, carbs, fruit and a treat.”
If you want to make interesting packed lunches but don’t have a lot of time, then buy some cookie cutters. Make sandwiches into hearts, stars, bears or anything that you think will make your kid smile. Creating inventive lunch boxes can take longer to prepare, so having a private housekeeper to help look after your home will give you more free time to be creative.
Encourage your little ones to eat more fruit by melting their favourite chocolate and dipping a piece of fruit into it. Place them on a tray in the fridge overnight and by morning they’ll be set and ready to go into the lunch boxes without any mess. We recommend tangerines, strawberries and apple slices to be half-covered in chocolate. To encourage your child even more to have their 5-a-day, a great tip is to add the pieces onto a skewer. Using skewers to present food is an easy way to make eating lunch more fun for your child.
Get your kids involved
Getting your kids involved when you’re preparing their packed lunch is great, especially if your child is a fussy eater. When children take part in the preparation of food, they tend to feel a sense of ownership and are more likely to want to eat the meal they’ve created. Pizza bagels are an easy way to get your kid involved; slice the bagel and smother in tomato puree, add a sprinkle of grated cheese and then let your child choose which toppings to add. You can lay out a few healthy toppings such as sweetcorn, mushrooms and pineapple.
Although it’s what’s on the inside that counts, packaging the packed lunch in a fun way may help your child feel more interested in the food. This works best if your child is young and will appreciate opening their lunch box to a surprise. You could add colourful sandwich bags, napkins, fun stickers and notes as the perfect lunch-time surprise. Brigitte tells us: “My kids feel extra special when I tape a note or drawing under the clear plastic of their lunch container for them to discover.” Adding a little note to make them smile and laugh is a great way to make their lunch more exciting.
It can be difficult to encourage your child to eat healthily and adding a chocolate bar to their lunch box can be tempting, however, there are simple and healthy alternatives. Our tip is to fill your fridge with fruit such as grapes, blueberries and strawberries to make it quick and easy for you to make a fruit salad each morning. Another trick is to buy a pack of rice cakes at the start of the week as this is a great substitute for unhealthy snacks, you can be creative and add toppings or purchase flavoured rice cakes. Popcorn is another healthy alternative, make sure you are cooking the corn yourself as ready-made popcorn has a lot of added sugar, you can drizzle a bit of dark chocolate over the top and your child may think of it as a treat. A top tip when adding an apple to your child’s lunch box is to cut segments into it but leave one end still intact, then tie the apple together with a rubber band as this will stop it turning brown!
Sandwiches may become repetitive for your child. When speaking to Brigitte from the Vegan Family Kitchen, she offered some great alternatives: “Veggie sushi makes great finger food! Make sticky brown rice and try different filling combinations, such as cucumber and hummus. Even just forming rice into balls will make it more appealing. More power to you if you can cut little ears and eyes out of a sheet of roasted seaweed to make a panda bear! Savoury muffins can be a great way to sneak in a portion of whole grains and vegetables, but test them at home first to see what your children make of them”
There are many alternatives you can use other than bread such as delicious mini omelettes. Our tip is to create the omelettes in a muffin tray, so they are a perfect size. Each week you can add different ingredients to the omelettes such as mushrooms, tomatoes and ham. Meal planning is a great way to steer away from quickly making sandwiches in the morning, Brigitte continues: “take one hour on the weekend to create a couple of dishes to portion out into lunch-sized servings. Add soup, pasta dishes or veggie-rich fried rice to jars as well as dishes. you can mix together cooked quinoa, black beans, diced red pepper, chopped spinach, mango chunks and salsa for a delicious Mexican salad.”