The end of August only means one thing – it's almost back to school time! While this year might be unlike any other, one thing you can control is what goes in your kids' lunchbox.
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Preparing exciting snacks doesn’t have to be difficult and you certainly can't go wrong with the basics.
Get inspired by our round-up of simple snacks that are not only nutritious but yummy too – the perfect fuel for any school day.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLES:
Fruit and vegetables are essential lunchbox items, although it can sometimes be difficult to encourage fussy eaters to have their five a day. Try chopping up carrot batons or cucumber served with a dip like hummus or cottage cheese for a balanced, filling snack, or make a colourful fruit salad with berries, apples and satsuma segments that is packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
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According to NHS Choices, a healthy school lunchbox should also include a source of protein. Some protein-packed snack ideas include a hard-boiled egg, which they could eat with spinach or cherry tomatoes, or a small piece of cheese. Snack cheeses such as Babybel or Cheesestrings will provide them both with protein and calcium, a vital mineral to support their growth.
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Children aged between four and eight need 1000mg of calcium per day, and one portion of a cheese like Babybel would provide them with 18 per cent of their daily requirements. Alternatively you could boost their calcium quota with a small pot of low-fat and lower sugar yoghurt such as Yeo Valley Little Yeos organic yoghurts (RRP: £1.50 for 4) or Greek yoghurt served with berries.
APPLES WITH PEANUT BUTTER:
You can't beat this classic combination. Adding peanut butter is a great way to make a plain piece of fruit feel fresh and exciting. Apples are a good source of fibre, while peanut butter is rich in protein and healthy fats – meaning your kids will stay fuller for longer and won't be begging you for dinner the second they come though the door!
HARD BOILED EGGS:
The humble boiled egg is the perfect school snack; easy to prep the night before, they will also stay fresh if you store them in the fridge. Eggs are rich in Vitamin D and B12, as well as two lesser-known nutrients – Choline, which helps brain development, and Lutein, which protects the eyes.
Stacey Solomon knows this all too well and regularly gives her sons Rex, Leighton and Zachary the simple snack. Why not get creative like Stacey by making faces on the eggs, encouraging fussy eaters to tuck in!
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A small pot of sugar-free jelly is ideal for the occasional sweet treat, while malt loaf or fruited teacakes are a healthier alternative to cakes and cereal bars. If your little one loves crisps, trade in store-bought packets for homemade plain popcorn or plain rice cakes, which you could add your own toppings to for variety throughout the school term.
Alternatively, you could try making your own sweet potato crisps at home; simply thinly slice a sweet potato and roast in olive oil until crispy. This healthier, homemade crisp is free from salt and a rich source of vitamins A, C and potassium.
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MINI BLUEBERRY PANCAKES
These delicious three-ingredient fruity pancakes make for the perfect lunchtime treat - and they're so simple to make! All you need is banana, flour and blueberries to whip up these easy fritters that help to curb your little one's sugar cravings without the need for unhealthy sweets or chocolate. They're freezable too, which makes them ideal for busy parents on tight schedules.
The NHS Choices guidelines for a healthier lunchbox include:
- be based on starchy carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta)
- include fresh fruit and vegetables/salad
- include a source of protein such as beans and pulses, eggs, fish, meat, cheese (or dairy alternative)
- include a side dish such as a low-fat and lower-sugar yoghurt (or dairy alternative), tea cake, fruit bread, plain rice/corn cakes, homemade plain popcorn, sugar-free jelly
- include a drink such as water, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, sugar-free or no-added-sugar drinks
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