While we tend to think a lot about what our kids are enjoying for lunch each day, the truth is that the entire family will benefit from packing and taking a homemade lunch each day.
Not only will you save lots of money by avoiding the $20 food court sandwich, but nutritionally a lunch that you take from home will be significantly lower in calories, and richer in essential nutrients including dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. The key is to get the right amount of food, and the right mix to tick the box on all of your essential nutrients, for both kids and adults alike.
Start with your protein base
Whether you are small, or older, ensuring you get enough protein throughout the day is the key to appetite control. Often lunches we grab on the go are packed full of carbs (rice, pasta, thick slabs of bread), while kids lunches are generally carb heavy thanks to loads of snack food and simple sandwiches. Building your lunch around a decent, 100-150g serve of lean meat, tuna, salmon, a couple of eggs or dairy (especially for kids at school) will ensure your lunch will keep you full and satisfied all afternoon. Think leftover stir fry with a little brown rice, potatoes stuffed with tuna or salmon, a quick omelette or frittata or a chicken or salmon salad with a side of crackers or a wrap.
For kids lunchboxes this translates into a decent serve of ham, turkey or chicken on wraps or sandwiches, or including some protein rich dairy such as milk or yoghurt as part of their lunchbox.
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Get serious with salad
This is where many a lunch goes wrong, it contains nowhere near the two-three cups of salad or veggies it needs to give you enough fibre and bulk to make it through the day. This means that a few lettuce leaves or slices of tomato on your sandwich is not enough. Rather you need an entire soup or salad with your lunch. Easy options include a simple salad side, leftover roasted veggies, a pre-made soup or even a carrot, cucumber and capsicum cut up to munch on through the day.
For the kids this means that veggies, as well as fruit, need to take centre stage in the lunchbox. Think baby cukes, tomatoes, pieces of carrots or capsicum that can also be packed with some cream cheese or hummus for dipping.
Don’t forget the snacks
Kid’s lunches look as appealing as they do because they have a number of different compartments with bite-sized tasty snacks, and there is no reason why adult’s lunches cannot be packed in the same way. Start with a little chopped fruit to team with a morning coffee — berries, chopped stonefruit or small apples or pears work well.
Next add in a handful of mixed nuts or seeds for a hit of good fat along with one other protein rich snack — roasted broadbeans, cheese and crackers or even a homemade protein ball.
For kids, dairy, snap peas or homemade treats work well. Once you take your healthy, delicious snacks for both morning and afternoon tea, processed snacks suddenly become a lot less appealing.