We may not be packing it up and sending it off in a cooler box with them to school every day, but make no mistake…lunches still need to be made! We asked North Coast mom of three Deborah Andrews of Lunchbox Lifesavers for some tips on how to add some ‘fun’ into daily lockdown lunches.
With the novelty of baking something new every single day having worn off by now, most parents are looking for quick and easy lunches that will fill tummies and keep kids healthy at the same time.
Former Australian national swimmer Deborah, who is passionate about feeding her kids ‘healthIER’ versions of the things they love, started her online community called Lunchbox Lifesavers with the hope of inspiring moms to have a bit of fun with their kids lunches. Her lunchbox creations range from turning tuna sarmies into puzzles to spiralling carrots and drawing faces on bananas!
“We all know that nutrition plays an important part in providing the fuel that their precious little bodies need to grow. It is perhaps even more important during a pandemic where healthier foods help support and strengthen their immune systems,” says Deb, who also has a certificate in children’s nutrition. But encouraging kids to eat healthier isn’t always easy!
“I love coming up with quick and easy tweaks to otherwise ‘boring’ food, that will spike the interest of the kids and hopefully encourage them to eat the food that is better for them. Sometimes a bit of fun can make a meal more appetizing. I can’t guarantee any miracles… but we just have to keep on keeping-on! Also, if we are making lunches every day…we may as well have some fun with it!”
DEB SHARES A FEW OF HER FAVOURITE LUNCHTIME TIPS AND RECIPES:
TIP: Using a colourful silicon cup is a super way to add a bit of colour to the plate, and works so well in a lunchbox if you want to separate the foods. Just make sure you use a cup that is as high as the lunchbox, so that when the lid is on it won’t spill (because we all know how kids use their cooler boxes as soccer balls at school)!
TIP: You can find cocktail sticks at party shops to add some fun into the lunch. Just be sure to break off the sharp ends if there’s a chance that they will be used as weapons at break time.
RECIPE: Baked Spaghetti Nests
Using left-over spaghetti and not even messing up another bowl in the making. Quick & easy, and these can be frozen for a time in the future when the kids are back at ‘real’ school. It’s a super way to send some pasta for lunch without the mess, as the baking process holds them together for their journey through the playground.
Just use your left-over spaghetti from supper and mix in an egg or two (depending on how much spaghetti you have left). Then add a handful of grated Parmesan and some grated mozzarella. Lightly grease a muffin tray. Use a fork to twirl the ribbons of spaghetti into ‘nests’ into each muffin cup. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180°C.
Veggie sticks taste better with a dip!
Fill the bottom part of a snacking pepper with hummus or cream cheese for a cup that can also be gobbled up.
RECIPE: Quick & easy chicken bites (two variations)
“These are so simple to mix together, using staples from your cupboard. They taste great and can be frozen (for when lunchboxes are pulled out again)! (recipe credit : @kellys_kitchensouthafrica)
Add 500g chicken mince (if you don’t have, simply use an S blade on a food processor and pulse the chicken, cut up into cubes) to the following for the two very different spins on these chicken bites:
Apple & Carrot: 1 carrot, finely grated; 1 apple; peeled and grated; 1 tsp Coconut (or olive) oil OR
Zucchini & Corn: 2 zucchinis (or marrows), grated; corn kernels from a kob (or you can use a handful of drained tinned corn); dash of lemon juice; 1 tsp Coconut (or olive) oil; salt and pepper to taste
There’s no need to cook anything up first. Just combine the mince and other ingredients into a bowl. Season to preference and shape into bite-sized balls. Place on a lined baking tray at 180ºC for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days, or freeze them for another day.
Add a touch of Bento fun with these googly eyes from @cloud.and.co (www.cloudandco.co.za) You will be amazed at how the kids may actually eat something they would not have usually! Also, spiralising carrot is an easy way to add a bit of fun to a boring veggie! See how long you can make your carrot ribbons without breaking!
RECIPE: Chuck-em Eggy Muffins
This literally is a ‘chuck ‘em all in’ quick and easy recipe using a few eggs and whatever veggies you have lying around after supper. These can be frozen and popped into the lunchbox in the morning!
Beat six eggs in a large bowl and add in half a cup of grated cheese. ‘Chuck in’ a few handfuls of diced veggies – cooked or uncooked (broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, peas) and, if you have, some diced meat such as ham or left-over chicken. Pour the egg mixture into lightly greased muffin cups (fill to just below the top) and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
Delicious warm or cold, they will keep in the fridge for a few days, or a couple of months in the freeze.