kids

Easy, healthy lunchbox ideas that'll save you a whole lot of time. Promise.

QUEENSLAND HEALTH
Thanks to our brand partner, QUEENSLAND HEALTH

Mornings are busy enough without the added stress of preparing a healthy lunchbox from scratch every day. 

As a mum of two school-age kids, I’ve found that preparing a few key items in advance really helps reduce stress (and cost).

If you haven't done much prep before, don't worry. You'll get the hang of it super quickly, and you don't have to be "perfect". Once you're on the road, you'll be saving so much time and your kids will actually eat the good, nutritional stuff that's in their lunchboxes. Trust me.

Just add a big bottle of frozen water, and your kids are ready to face the day. Let's go. 

Make-ahead mains. 

If you want to get out of the rut of preparing the same old sandwich every morning, try some of these tasty options for their main meal. 

They’re all perfect for preparing in advance, so that you can just grab and go from the fridge or freezer. 

1. Homemade pizza 

The great thing about pizza is you can make it exactly how your little one likes it. Why not try this healthy tropical pizza recipe with yummy toppings like red or green capsicum, mushrooms and of course, pineapple pieces. 

Just store in the freezer after it’s stopped steaming and add a slice or two (depending on their age) to the lunchbox. 

Tropical pizza, apple, pear and banana muffin. Image: Queensland Health 

 

2. Sandwiches and wraps

The tip here is to buy your loaf of fresh bread, and prepare alllllll of your sandwiches for the week at once. Tightly wrap each one and freeze in an airtight container to ensure no air can creep in. 

This only works with non-salad, non-drip sandwiches such as ham and cheese, tuna, roast chicken or Vegemite and cheese. 

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Buttering the bread also seems to give it a fresher flavour once defrosted. You can always add salad items separately to the lunchbox. 

Then just grab a sandwich on the day you want to use it and place in the lunchbox with a cool pack. The sandwich will be perfectly defrosted by mid-morning. If your children like wraps, you can prepare and freeze these too in the same way. 

Another great tip? Keep a packet of wraps in the freezer and just defrost one as you need it for 30 seconds, to make a wrap in the morning. This pesto chicken wrap works well using leftover barbecue chicken and a few simple salad ingredients. 

Pesto and chicken wrap, banana and veggie fritters. Image: Queensland Health 

 

3. Quiches, frittatas and fritters 

These types of meals are great for making in advance and freezing. They also allow you to add loads of veggies, which is especially handy if you struggle to get your kids to eat them. 

Try this pumpkin, leek and feta mini frittata recipe. Store in the fridge overnight (or place in the freezer for any longer) and pop in the lunchbox as needed. 

This veggie fritter recipe is good too, and uses FIVE different vegetables. 

Pumpkin, leek and feta mini frittatas. Image: Queensland Health 

 

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Make-ahead snacks 

Kids need some healthy options for morning tea or snack break and to go with their main meal. Make life easier by trying some of these tips. 

1. Prep your veg for the week 

Carrot and celery are lunchbox staples for a reason – they’re fairly cheap, nice and crunchy, and great for dipping. But if you don’t want to chop fresh veggies every morning (*raises hand*) you can easily prep them for the whole week at once. 

The trick is to chop them into sticks and then place in a jar or container and submerge them in water. Replace the water every two days (pour it onto the garden) to keep them fresh and tasty. Then you can use them as lunchbox snacks, or Brain Break if your child’s school takes part in that.

Keep other veggies on hand such as cherry tomatoes and mini cucumbers which are perfect for tossing in the lunchbox. 

2. Keep some fruit in the freezer 

Don’t ever have the worry of an empty fruit bowl. You can freeze grapes and berries, and even quartered oranges (tightly wrapped). Then just pop them in the lunchbox on the day. 

3. Bulk buy items instead of individual packs 

You can save some serious cash AND reduce packaging by buying big packs of snacks such as pretzels, sultanas, popcorn, dried apricots or rice crackers.

Stored well (in a jar, airtight container, or taped shut), these keep in the pantry and you can just pop a few different snacks into the lunchbox (or a mixture) instead of giving the children individual packs of the snack. Check the cost per gram and you’ll see how much you’re saving.

You can also do this with snacks like hummus. Instead of buying the individual packs, just make a batch and store in the fridge in little containers for the kids to dunk their carrot sticks into. 

Why not try this easy beetroot hummus

Beetroot hummus dip. Image: Queensland Health. 

 

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Make-ahead sweet treats 

Remember as a kid, opening your lunchbox for the first time each day. What’s the first thing you sniff out? The sweet snack. 

The good news is, these are some of the easiest parts of the lunchbox to make ahead and freeze. 

There are really just two main tips for baked goods. The first is to always make a double batch so that you have plenty of snacks to hand.

The second is to freeze them once they stop steaming. Do this by firstly placing the cooked treats on a baking paper-lined chopping board (cut as needed and ensure treats are not touching each other). 

Next, wrap them individually and place in a ziplock bag with the air removed. Then you won’t end up with a stuck-together blob of mini muffins or a slice. Simply place the baked goods in the lunchbox and it will defrost by mid-morning. 

1. Slices and muffins 

Think muffins (sweet or savoury), slice, pikelets or loaves. 

Try this big batch recipe for pear and banana muffins (it makes 24, so perfect to freeze). A fruity muffin is a perfect lunchbox addition. 

You can’t go past a simple blueberry and banana bread either (and let’s be honest, the adults will happily take this to work too). 

Leftover rainbow pasta with fruity muffin and honeydew. Image: Queensland Health 
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2. Savoury baked snacks

Who said baked snacks can’t be savoury? We love these sweet potato and cheese muffins, and they freeze/defrost perfectly. 

This carrot zucchini and date cake has the perfect balance of sweet and savoury and yes, freezes like a dream. 

Carrot, zucchini and date cake. Image: Queensland Health 

3. Refillable pouches

These are so handy to (again) reduce waste and reduce cost by buying ingredients in bulk. Fill 'em up with yoghurt and honey, a banana smoothie, or some pureed fruit for a tasty sweet snack on the go. 

If you want to make a bunch at once, you can store them in the freezer and they’ll defrost by snack or meal times. They also help to keep the rest of the lunchbox cool. Winning. 

For more easy tips and recipes, visit Queensland Health's Healthier. Happier. website.

QUEENSLAND HEALTH
Healthier. Happier. Get and stay healthy with our healthy recipes, tips, exercise videos and handy guides.
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