There is a good reason why so many articles, Facebook groups and Pinterest boards are dedicated to kids’ lunchboxes – when they return home full of untouched goodies, it’s enough to frustrate even the most Zen parent. Yep, every day those lunchboxes are filled with not only food but our fervent hopes that one day they will return empty. While my kids have very definite ideas about what will take up temporary residence in their tummies, I’ve found that these simple things have edged me closer to the holy grail that is the empty lunchbox.
1. Turn your kids into cooks.
If you have time to prepare lunchboxes before the morning of kinder or school, try and get your kids involved in making the contents. Whether it’s rolling bliss balls in coconut, baking savoury muffins or stirring pikelet batter, giving your kids a role in preparing the food often makes them more likely to eat it (and will hopefully help them develop an appreciation of the effort it takes).
2. Cut things into shapes.
It is widely acknowledged by young ones that food actually tastes better when it’s in the shape of a circle, star or flower. Invest in some cookie cutters of various shapes and sizes and cut fruit, cheese or sandwiches into shapes. ‘Mickey Mouse melon’ and ‘star cheese’ are super popular lunchbox additions at our place where I frequently scoff the offcuts.
Isn't this the cutest lunch you've ever seen? Image: iStock.
3. Keep it colourful and bite-size.
Try to give your kids a range of bite-size options in a variety of colours – carrots and cucumber sticks with hummus dip, left over tortellini, mozzarella balls, strawberries, blueberries and grapes are all easy to eat when on the go and will keep the lunchbox colourful and fun.
4. Ensure it’s healthy but yum.
Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring and it doesn’t have to be hard to source. Yoghurt pouches are a great nutritious snack that kids can eat during busy playtime. Vaalia’s new breakfast yoghurt is packed with fruit and grains to ensure kids get an added boost of fibre and it comes in two delicious flavours – banana and blueberry. Better yet, you can just grab it out of the fridge and pop it in the lunchbox, zero effort required!
5. When in doubt, skewer it.
Make sure you never run out of toothpicks or kebab sticks because kids love a snack on a skewer and you can stab and stack most things. Go the basic cabanossi and cheese skewer or get inventive and skewer mini meatballs, pineapple and capsicum. Make sure you cut off the sharp tips and soak the sticks before skewering to prevent wood chards breaking off.
When your kids see fruit skewers in their lunchbox. Image: Paramount Pictures.
6. Change it up.
Kids can easily get bored of having the same thing over and over again. A toasted ham and cheese sandwich might get devoured one day and ignored the next. If you can, make a few different lunchbox fillers in advance so you can vary the contents from day to day. Things like date balls and oat cookies will keep in the fridge for the week but something as simple as crackers with cream cheese one day and tasty cheese and tomato skewers the next will keep the lunchbox contents diverse (and hopefully out of the bin).
When you’ve tried all these, cross your fingers and toes and pray to the culinary gods that one day, you’ll open a post-school lunchbox and find nothing but fruit peels and an empty yoghurt pouch.
What do you pack into your children's lunchboxes?