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Summer holidays are over, time to start planning lunch

As you can tell by the traffic, schools are back – at least some of them.

By next week we will be in full flow!

Between Covid and the summer holidays I feel well and truly out of the morning routine. Getting out of the house in good time has always been my challenge. Very hard to get out of a cosy bed, no matter how warm the weather – maybe I am still catching up on sleep from when the kids were little.

These days though, it’s the kids who are catching up on me. They are so tall! It won’t be long before Chloe is towering over me; she’s already borrowing my clothes and my shoes. Fortunately, this has reciprocal benefits as I am also borrowing hers – which is amazing.

I think the kids have mixed feelings about growing up. They have so much more freedom but also more jobs!

If you’re big enough to go into town and shop with your friends, you’re also big enough to do the washing up and vacuum, right?

At what stage do I hand over lunch boxes though? They are definitely capable of making them but they are also capable of filling every single bento compartment with Nutella. Even though lunches are the bane of my existence (dramatic, I know), I do love knowing that I have packed the kids off with something vaguely nourishing. I guess I’ll keep doing it for now and because I get so many lunch box questions, here's a whole list of tips to help keep yours healthy!

Sandwiches

If sandwiches are your mainstay, try and pick a good bread (something like Rudi’s organic or the Ezekiel wholegrain). If you’re struggling to get little kids to eat grainy bread, then try doing sandwiches with cookie cutters which will make you feel like Annabel Karmel without actually having to carve a watermelon into the shape of a school bus. If you don’t know who Annabel Karmel is, she’s a kids’ recipe author who is amazing (although she raised the parenting bar just a little too far in my opinion)!

It's also wise to stay away from the deli meat fillings. The American Institute for Cancer Research has long since warned parents to avoid regular deli ham and turkey due to the increased risk of bowel and colon cancers. Applegate and Niman ranch are better options, but the very best idea would be to use something completely unprocessed such as leftover roast chicken.

For healthy meat-free options try hummus and cucumber or almond butter and fruit-only jam. The key is to look for some kind of protein (chicken, hummus or nut butter) to provide the staying power. I know banana and sprinkles is a cute idea, but that has sugar rush written all over it.

Vegetables

Try and include some fresh veggies – whether it’s carrots, celery, cucumber, baby tomatoes or peppers. Dip might make them more appealing so hummus is your friend here, or an organic ranch dip. Salsa also works a charm. For extra protein, try some organic edamame. Frozen peas can also work well – at least they did for us until Belle shoved one up her nose and ended up having an anaesthetic to remove it (true story)! Who knew that frozen peas need to be an age-appropriate snack?!

Crackers

If you have a child that doesn’t like sandwiches then crackers can be a good source of wholegrains and are good paired with nut butter, guacamole, hummus or organic cheese. I love the Mary’s Gone Crackers range, but the Annie’s whole wheat crackers are super kid-friendly too. Try and avoid too many Cheez-Its and Ritz crackers which are super refined.

Fruit snacks

Ah … my pet peeve and a real problem for all the dentists as they are very sticky on your child’s teeth. Welch’s fruit snacks look so healthy and they are described as gluten-free and fat-free and said to contain vitamins A, C & E …. but they are also artificially coloured and packed full of sugar. They’re basically candy so I really suggest you skip them. And although the Motts version are dye-free, the portion size is huge – a total disaster. If you must do something like this then try the Annie’s version but they should still really be considered a treat. Fresh fruit is always best!

Fresh fruit

Satsumas and apples are obviously very lunch box friendly but if you want to mix things up then make a little fruit salad with a good colour contrast – oranges and strawberries, kiwi and watermelon, blueberries and raspberries, pineapple and honey dew. Do remember that fruit is carbs though, so keep portions moderate and if you are allowed to provide nuts with the fruit, then do! My kids love pistachios in their lunch boxes. The mini snack packs of almonds are also handy.

Seaweed

If you need a filler but are trying to keep the calories on the lower side, then the gimMe seaweed sheets are a good option. Try and go for the sea salt flavour cooked in avocado oil though, otherwise you’re just consuming layer upon layer of maltodextrin (aka sugar) with the other flavours.

Popcorn

Try airpopping your own or try the Skinny Pop or Boom Chicka Pop, both of which keep portion sizes reasonable and avoid GMO corn/oils.

Yoghurts

This is an easy sugar trap so, where possible, go with plain yoghurt and fresh fruit with a drizzle of honey. If you have to do a flavoured option, try the Siggis brand which seems to be the lowest in sugar naturally and quite good for protein too.

Bars

The Made Good bars are the clear winner here as they are allergy-friendly, nut-free (handy for some schools), lower in sugar and pretty tasty. Made Good also do some great rice krispy treats, but if giving these as a snack definitely try and include some nuts/seeds for protein too if allowed.

Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram

Frozen peas work well as part of a healthy lunch although they are perhaps not such a great idea for younger children, Catherine Burns warns

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Published September 03, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated September 03, 2021 at 7:41 am)

Summer holidays are over, time to start planning lunch

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