My boys are both big on grazing, so small nutritious snacks are always close by. They often share a large platter for lunch, filled with finger foods and plenty of raw fruits and vegetables. I try and replicate this style of eating with Max's preschool lunchbox, which needs to be free of nuts as some of his class friends have allergies.
- Like us, little ones love variety - while a good cheese sandwich can be a tasty and satisfying lunch, by the third day - it can be a little underwhelming. Stock your little ones lunch box with half a dozen healthy options, so they can make choices about what they eat. Once you have a handful of trusty options, have them on a high rotation to keep things interesting! Freezing individual portions of muffins, biscuits, dips etc can help to keep the rotation rolling...
- Try and add lots of colour to your little ones lunchbox, it will make for a little more excitement upon opening it! If you are adding carrot sticks and dip, chose yellow, red or green fruit - rather than orange.
- Don't be afraid to try something new, keeping within the boundaries of your little ones taste buds of course. I find my little guys are more likely to try new things when I am not hovering over them like a hawk!
- Ensure you have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables packed everyday, to keep your little one on track for their 5+ servings. I like to give them lots of fruit during the day, rather than at night, so usually work to a 2:1 ratio (not that I'm counting!) and give them two servings of fruit, and one vegetable.
- Invest in a quality lunchbox and drink bottle. A good lunchbox can last years, one with divided sections is great for packing a rubbish free lunch and allows you to buy snacks in bulk, saving you money! Be mindful of harmful chemicals and toxins that are present in many plastics these days and chose items that are BPA and PVC free. Naturally, I love the Goodbyn range, which comes in plenty of styles to suit every tummy size and is incredibly versatile. And when it comes to a drink bottle, we absolutely love the CamelBak, again, it comes in a range of sizes, is leakproof and indestructible!
- Buckwheat Crackers with a selection of toppings like cheese, tomato, hummus, cottage cheese, alfalfa sprouts etc.
- Cauliflower & Cheese Quinoa Cups this recipe is incredibly versatile and packed with protein. Although Max may not look very excited about these (below) it is the camera lens that he despises at the moment, not my food - thankfully!
- Sushi is always devoured! We eat it at least once a week, I like to use either quinoa or brown rice, or a combination of the two as the main filling and add lots of fresh vegetables - carrot, cucumber, avocado, sprouts etc, along with a little cold chicken. We tend to make extra at dinner time, to make for an easier exit out the door the following day!
- Popcorn which I cook in olive oil, butter or coconut oil and sprinkle with a generous amount of nutritional yeast with a pinch of sea salt. This is generally the highlight of Max's lunchbox! It is simple to prepare and can be stored in airtight containers for a day or two. Nutritional yeast, which is high in B-vitamins and protein, is a great natural cheesy flavouring that kids love, minus the MSG and artificialness! I grew up eating this tasty snack, it is well worth a try.
- Scroggin is a great lunchbox snack, which can easily be made in large batches and stored in an airtight container for weeks. I like to use dried apricots and cranberries along with raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds and shredded coconut.
- Dips with fresh, raw vegetable sticks are a great addition and can easily tick up a few servings of vegetables! The great thing about hummus and bean dips is they can be frozen in individual servings - making it simple to throw into a lunchbox.
- Smoothies are an excellent snack and make for a tasty and delicious variation to water to keep your little one well hydrated throughout the day. I'm a huge fan of the Kai Carrier (pictured below), which comes in a small or large size and can be filled and frozen - and reused!
- From the blog archives why not also try these delicious snacks, which are free of gluten, refined sugar and nuts - as well as options for dairy and egg free. Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites, Raspberry & Coconut Fruit Leathers, Banana Bars, Apricot & Orange Logs, Kumara Chips, Spiced Kumara Cakes, Tropical Quinoa Slice or Buckwheat & Parmesan Crackers.
- Fresh Fruit is an obvious choice when it comes to packing a healthy lunch. For most fruits, as soon as it is sliced it starts to lose nutritional value, so choosing whole fruits such as small apples, unpeeled mandarins, bananas, grapes are excellent.
When buying snacks I avoid preservatives, artificial flavourings and colouring - as well as gluten, nuts, refined sugar (or as little as possible!)
My favourites include:
- These delightful little freeze dried treats that Kiwigarden produce. The boys LOVE them, think dried apple, only light and crunchy, as well as little drops of crunchy yogurt and fruit - perfect for little ones lunch boxes and day bags. I love that their products are made from New Zealand grown fruits and vegetables, free of artificial flavouring, colouring and preservatives. They are free of gluten and nuts and three of the four flavours are free of refined sugar. I like to transfer a packet into a Goodbyn dipper and recycle the packaging before it heads to school. Their supermarket stockist list is growing faster than my nails these days and you can also purchase online (use code LITTLEANDLOVED) for a wee discount too!
- On the off chance we are out of fresh bananas, which I try my damnedest not too be, I keep a stash of All Good dried banana chunks on hand to throw into lunch boxes. They are deliciously soft and tasty - All Good!
- Ceres Organics Roasted Seaweed Snacks - paper thin, crunchy, lightly salted - these are like chips of the sea - and the boys love them! I pick them up from the counter at my local health food store.
- Totally Devoted make a range of the most delicious crunchy cookies, packed with nutritional ingredients and good fats, like coconut oil, great to have in the fridge (yep, I keep cookies and crackers like this in the fridge if I'm storing them for a long period) for days when baking doesn't agree with you!