Healthiness (and happiness) in a box

Helpful lunchbox tips to deal with the challenge of packing a healthy lunchbox that appeals to your child
By Child magazine

Main Image


Mention lunchboxes around parents and you’re likely to hear a few sighs, some despairing groans and maybe some unexpected exclamations. You’re also likely to spark a lively session of tip-swapping as moms and dads share what works for their children and what doesn’t.
How you pack lunches can be as important as what you pack.
  • Keeping food separate is a good idea. Try using silicone cupcake moulds to keep berries, grapes or nuts from rolling around the lunchbox. You can also use stackable lunchboxes, or those with built-in compartments.
  • Use airtight containers so that food stays fresh, especially if it’s made the night before.
  • If you’re packing finger food, include a plastic or wooden fork, or a toothpick. You can also include a slightly damp cloth or wet wipe in a sandwich bag.
  • Some foods can spoil quickly, so keep lunches fresh by using a mini cooler bag, or including an ice pack in the lunch. A DIY ice pack idea is to soak a kitchen sponge in water, place in a plastic bag, seal and freeze.
Foods that are too complicated, take too long to eat, spoil quickly, or are too messy just won’t be eaten.
  • Use cherry tomatoes instead of cutting up big tomatoes.
  • Avoid using foods that are going to oxidise or go brown, like avocado and lettuce. If you want to include avocado, rub some lemon juice over it.
  • Keep any seasoning or salad dressing separate.
  • If you cut up an apple, slice it down each side, and while it is still in its shape, place an elastic band around it.
  • Score orange skins by tracing a knife around the orange a few times, so that it’s easy to peel.
  • Using tomato on sandwiches? Place slices between the ham and cheese, or other ingredients, to stop the bread from going soggy.
Keeping up the interest levels in lunch can help to ensure children eat (almost) everything.
  • Cut sandwiches into fun shapes.
  • Try using wraps or pita pockets as a substitute for bread.
  • You don’t need to overwhelm children with too much choice, but packing a few different foods, or packing something different every day or two, can help.
Happy hummus
strawberries / blueberries / grapes / tomatoes / date balls
babybel cheese / kiri cheese / gouda cheese
droëwors / biltong
hummus / cracker bread
carrots / cucumber / mangetout
Wrap it up
naartjie / strawberries / blueberries / raspberries / avo / tomato
full cream yoghurt mixed with berries
salmon / tuna / chicken
wrap / pita
carrots / broccoli / mangetout
Summer seeds
watermelon / apple / pear / mango strips / tomato / olives
feta cheese
biltong / droëwors / seeds / egg
seed bread / sweet potato bread
beans / cucumber / mint / parsley / coriander / basil
Lunchbox basics
Make yourself a lunch packing station in your fridge. Use a deep tray and some spare containers to store all your lunchbox foods. When it’s time to make lunches, you can pull this out. Everything is on hand, so you don’t forget anything, and you can see if you’re running low on anything in time to stock up.
Create an area in your pantry or cupboard for all the basics you will need, from containers to staples. Stock up on seasonal veggies and keep your fruit bowl overflowing with colour and variety.
butter, milk, yoghurt and cream cheese hard cheese (free of colourants) and feta eggs, cold meats and sausages mayo, tahini, pesto, hummus and tzatziki salad ingredients and veggies tofu, falafel, dolmades and dinner leftovers
berries and bananas (cut in half) bagels, wraps and croissants muffins and ready-made pastry chicken fillets, bacon and mince veggies such as peas, beans and broccoli vegan and vegetarian nuggets and patties
in the cupboard
vinegar, mustard, olive oil and soy sauce peanut butter (without sugar) canned lentils, chickpeas and beans tins/packets of tuna, salmon and sardines couscous, quinoa and brown rice crackers and lentil chips olives, gherkins and capers nuts, seeds and trail mix herbimare (a natural low-salt seasoning)
bread bin
wholewheat bread, seeded rolls, pita bread, bagels, low-carb loaf and english muffins
Visuals and inspiration courtesy of Vanessa Gardner.
This Cape Town mother of three, was increasingly frustrated with the daily chore of preparing lunchboxes that were interesting, fun and nutritionally balanced. So she created a lunchbox that could hold a variety of snacks, each in its own separate space, and in the correct portion size. “It is an unassailable fact that nutrition enables learning. Children need a varied and balanced diet, while parents strive for convenience and simplicity...”
Vanessa Gardner

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