In the mad rush of getting the kids up, fed, ready and out the door in the morning, it’s easy to fall back into the easy lunch fix – a cheese sandwich and apple.
While parents want kids to eat healthily, getting them to eat at all is sometimes an equal challenge.
And not even celebrity chefs are immune from the task of making good food interesting for their kids when the canteen calls.
Chef Shane Delia from Maha restaurant said he spent a lot of time thinking about what to pack into daughter Jayda’s lunchbox that the grade 2 pupil took to school each day.
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“I want to make sure when she goes to school it’s not boring, and also she’s not eating junk from the canteen,” he said.
One of the best ways to get kids to eat their lunch is to get them involved in the process, from shopping to cooking.
“We try and cook as a family on a Sunday and while we’re doing that we try to prepare something that can be eaten on the Monday at school,” he said. “It’s about getting her interested in the process so she wants to eat it.”
Delia and Jayda, 7, make muffins together, or quiches and frittatas. And wraps and salads are easy to prepare and can be mixed up depending on the season – even the depths of winter.
“If we can give Jayda a different item, as opposed to a sandwich and fruit, if that happens once a week, then that’s a win,” Delia said.
“School lunches are an opportunity to educate, and you can educate them on different levels. Not just about food, but multiculturalism as well. Different food is from different places in the world.”
So to help plan interesting school lunches for the term ahead, here are Delia’s top five ideas sure to ensure every lunchbox comes home empty at night.
“For us, Middle Easter is the easiest to incorporate into Jayda’s lunch. It’s in our DNA and she’s been brought up with these flavours.”
He suggested a wrap spread with hummus and filled with fresh vegetables, including tomato, cucumber and spinach. Or cut up flat bread into little squares, and serve with a separate container of dip, and some whole cherry tomatoes.
“What’s great about Middle Eastern food is that it’s interactive. It’s fun for them,” he said.
Vegie sticks with dip
A salad and hummus wrap
A tub of cherry tomatoes
Everyone loves burgers, and kids are no exception. Delia suggested making rissoles from canned tuna mixed with mashed potato, onion, parsley and egg, rolled into balls and pan fried. “Put this into a little bun with cos lettuce, cheese, a little mayo, bang, you have a fish burger that kids love!”
Or turn last night’s roast into tomorrow’s lunch burger by mixing leftover meat into a patty to serve in a bun.
“As long as it looks like a burger, kids are happy,” he said.
A homemade hamburger
Small bag of plain popcorn
“Muffins are a great lunch choice,” Delia said. “You can pack so much flavour and vegetables into a muffin.”
Using wholemeal flour as the base, Delia said pumpkin, spinach and ricotta, and zucchini are all popular flavour variations in their household.
“Pumpkin is great, kids love the golden colour, and ricotta muffins are always a winner,” he said.
This is also a good opportunity to add new flavours to children. “You can add things like cinnamon and cardamom into the mix, things that wouldn’t usually be in a kid’s lunch meal.”
Pumpkin and cinnamon muffin
Pink lady apple
Tub of cut fruit or vegie sticks and dip
“Bowled salads are great for older kids, who can get involved in preparing them,” Delia said.
Poached chicken makes a great hero protein to be served with rice noodles and bean shoots for crunch. Served in a bowl with a little container of dressing that’s poured over the salad at lunchtime and you have a hit.
“It’s so easy, so simple, and you can pack lots of veg in,” he said.
Chicken and rice noodle salad bowl
Sushi or rice paper roll
Frittatas are Italian-style omelettes that are another great dish to make with kids with the added bonus of sneaking in whatever veg is in season.
Pea, mint and fetta, or ham cheese and tomato, or carrot and zucchini are all great flavour combos to go with the eggy cheesy slice.
Ham and cheese frittata
Small tub of pasta salad
Bunch of grapes
AN EXTRA SWEET TREAT
“I’m not opposed to giving kids sweets,” Delia said.
“They’re running around all day, and kids have to have some treats, after all, what’s the point of being a kid!”
One idea is to make a batch of mini cupcakes together that can then be shared at school. “They’re learning about food, about sharing, and about dining together. It’s a win-win.”
Delia said there was nothing wrong with putting a piece of cake into the lunchbox as a treat. “Cakes don’t have to be packed full of sugar, especially if you make it yourself.”
Words by Dan Stock
Lead Picture by Norm Oorloff
Originally posted on Sunday Herald Sun July 9, 2016