Simple tips for school lunches

RACV Club chefs may make fancy lunches for Members at the Club but they say simplicity is the key to making interesting and nutritious school lunches for children.

Coming up with school lunch ideas everyday can be a chore and, surprisingly, it isn’t any easier if you’re a chef.

RACV Healesville Country Club & Resort Chef De Cuisine and parent Kauri Kondraschek has learnt from experience that children prefer simple sandwiches and snacks.

“You would think that chefs’ kids get all kinds of fancy things in their lunches, but for the most part they like it simple,” Kauri says.

A quick survey of Healesville Country Club & Resort chefs who have children has found they all have a straightforward approach to school lunches.

They recommend classic sandwich fillings such as vegemite, peanut butter and jam, ham and cheese (fresh or toasted), salami and sauce (barbecue or tomato) and spaghetti jaffles.

Mother preparing her daughter for school with her lunch box
Child's lunch box

If you want to make sandwiches more nutritional, you can add lettuce leaves to vegemite, grated carrot or alfalfa sprouts to peanut butter, and cucumber to salami, but don’t be surprised if your children turn up their noses.

Planning the night before can also save time and avoid stress in the morning.

“I always make the kids’ lunches the night before because mornings are so crazy trying to get everyone ready for the day,” Kauri says.

She suggests trying wraps to break the monotony of sandwiches.

“My kids like wraps and there are lots of different types available now, including gluten and dairy free. They can be filled with all the same fillings as a sandwich.”

Giving your children choices and letting them help in the preparation may keep them interested and ensure the lunch box comes home empty.

“The best thing to do is to ask them what they would like. It gives them a sense of independence and some control over part of their day,” Kauri says. “It doesn’t mean a free for all. I give them choices, such do you what a red or green apple? Sandwich or wrap? Vegemite or ham and cheese? They are more likely to eat it if they get to choose.”

Kauri’s back-to-school lunchbox tips:

  • Buy a lunch box with little containers, so that you can fill them with different things.
  • Add a tub of plain Greek yoghurt and add a teaspoon of jam, stewed fruit or frozen berries to sweeten. By making your own flavoured yogurt you can control the amount of sugar. Don’t forget to include a spoon.
  • Put six to eight cherry tomatoes or a Roma tomato (cut in half) in a lunchbox compartment, separate container or zip-lock bag. The bag can be rinsed and re-used to help the environment.
  • Pop whole strawberries or grapes into a container. They are usually firm enough to withstand being bumped around in the school bag.
  • Put a whole piece of fruit such as an apple in the side pocket of a school bag.
  • Packs of cheese and crackers make a great snack and are readily available at the supermarket.
  • Occasionally, include an individual packet of chips or sweet biscuits as a treat. A “fun-sized” chocolate hidden underneath everything always gets an excited response.
  • Many lunch boxes come with a drink bottle. Fill that with water and freeze the night before. It keeps the lunchbox items chilled and makes for a refreshing drink.

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