The new school year is here again and packed lunch prep is back on the menu! Balancing a healthy diet with the food kids crave can be challenging. Get a lunchbox right and it will keep them going right through to dinnertime.
To give you some inspiration, we’ve put together three lunchbox fillers that are quick, easy, delicious and nutritious. They are loaded with all the stuff kids need; including protein to keep their hunger at bay and carbs for a PE lesson boost. From sweet to savoury, batch prep these recipes and getting those packed lunches right will be a breeze.
Herby falafel pittas
Falafels are a great veggie alternative to a meat sandwich, are packed with plant protein and fibre, and kids love them. Our falafels are baked rather than fried, so are a healthy take on the Middle Eastern delicacy. For ease, make a big batch of the falafels to freeze, then simply defrost and pop them in a pitta with salad and yoghurt or your sauce of choice.
Makes: 4 servings
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 400g can chickpeas
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp mixed herbs
- 1 lemon, zest grated
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- Pulse the chickpeas in a food processor for around a minute, until they look like finely chopped nuts: uneven in texture with a few larger chunks clearly visible. Scrape this mixture into a large bowl. Heat the oven to 180oC, gas mark 4.
- Mix the onion, garlic and mixed herbs in a blender for around a minute, until they resemble a finely chopped mixture. Throw this in with the chickpeas and add the egg, cumin, lemon zest, salt and black pepper, and combine.
- Drizzle some olive oil on a baking tray. With your hands, form this mixture into small balls, each just less than the size of a ping-pong ball. Spread them out on the tray and place in the oven, leaving them to cook for 15-20 minutes, and turning halfway.
- Once they’re cooked, prep what you need and freeze what you don’t in a container, once cooled. To prepare each day, simply put in a pitta pouch, add a salad garnish and drizzle with a favourite sauce.
Fruit and veggie couscous salad
This vegan recipe packs tons of the good stuff in; it has a whole host of vitamins and minerals covered. Even better, it’s super quick to make and can be stored in containers in the fridge – so you could make up Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s lunches all in one go.
Makes: 4 servings
- 200g couscous
- 300ml hot vegetable stock
- 300g can of sweetcorn, drained
- 6 dried apricots, chopped
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- ¼ cucumber, finely sliced
- ½ small red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Juice ½ lemon
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds (optional)
- Season and spices (optional)
- Place the couscous in a large bowl and pour in the hot vegetable stock. Cover the bowl and leave it to soak for 10-15 minutes.
- Chop and prepare all the fruit and vegetables and put them in a bowl together, adding the olive oil and lemon juice. If your child has a favourite seasoning or spice, add this now. Mix together well.
- The couscous should now have absorbed the vegetable stock. Use a fork to gently fluff it, before adding it to the fruit and veg mixture. Add the parsley and seeds (if you’re using them) and toss together. Serve into containers.
- For something extra special, feel free to include a dollop of your favourite sauce, sprinkle with herbs or add a pinch of spice.
Oatmeal and banana sponge bites
Everyone likes to top off lunch with a treat, and satisfying a sweet tooth with something that’s good for us is a bonus. Packed full of oats, these spongey little bites should keep your kids fuller for longer, while the addition of banana will help them get the vitamins they need to grow strong and stay healthy, and the potassium should give them a boost come P.E time. The bites will keep for several days at room temperature, so keep them in sealed container and add a couple to the lunchbox each day of the week.
Makes: 12 – 18 bites
- 250g mashed ripe banana
- 450g oatmeal
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
- 50ml applesauce
- 70g raisins
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Heat the oven to 180oC, gas mark 4. Grab a bowl and mix all the ingredients together well, until they form a moist and slightly gloopy, sticky mixture.
- Use a tablespoon to form bite-size balls, placing them one at a time onto an ungreased baking sheet. When these begin to cook, they will not change in size or volume – so flatten the bites into a desired shape and thickness at your own will.
- Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until a golden colour. They should still retain a soft and spongy texture, so don’t wait for them to harden or become crisp.
- Cool on a wire rack.
For more great meal ideas for all the family, check out our dedicated recipe section.