One of my pet hates from back when I was in school is cleaning out dirty school lunch boxes that have been in the school bag for a while. 

 

Now, if everything was eaten that isn't a problem at all.  My goal is to have just enough of the right foods and foods that my children will eat so that the lunch box comes home empty.

 

School lunchtime, what memories do you have?  I am still traumatised about eating bananas!  There was a girl in my class who used to eat a banana with her mouth open, I still can picture it and to this day I won't eat a banana if anyone is looking at me!  My kids find it a great source amusement when I tell them that story.

 

I think a major flaw in our Irish primary schools is that not enough time is allocated to eating.  I learnt this when my oldest was in Junior Infants and he wasn't eating half his lunch.  How many times do you hear the excuse, "I didn't get enough time".  I have a client who has recently moved her children to our school from an International school and she can't get over how little time the kids get to eat their lunch.

 

My solution is to give them manageable portions so when I ask the question at the collection, did you eat all your lunch?  The answer is 'yes' and I have an empty lunchbox to clean and not one with a squashed half banana, cracker crumbs, piece of cheese and a half-eaten yoghurt pot spilt everywhere!

 

I also make sure I have a nutritionally dense snack for straight after school. 

 

If we are on the run to another activity, as is often the case, I bring my 'raw power bars' in the car.  They are full of nuts and seeds, sweetened with honey and topped with homemade chocolate. They are delicious and super easy to eat.  As most schools have a ban on nuts, they cant have them in school, but they are perfect for straight after.

 

You can find some recipes for these here including the energy balls and banana and blueberry pancakes. 

 

So what goes into the lunch box to make sure there is enough time for eating?  I let the kids choose one item from each group. I do the main item, with protein that the kids choose; ham, cheese, egg, tuna, chicken, chickpeas in a roll, wrap or with crackers then a piece of fruit and then a snack like an energy ball, granola slice, rice cracker etc. 

 

I believe that if the child chooses what they want, they are more likely to eat it and can be held accountable.  What they liked last month might be at the bottom of their list this week, so I always ask them to choose, 'what fruit would you like, I have apples, banana, orange or grapes?'

 

I believe that it is important that children understand that food is a source of fuel and how they need to eat a balanced diet.  For example, 'an orange will help fight off colds', 'fruit and veg are full of vitamins and good for your skin and hair'. I also remind them that 'chicken is a good source of protein which will keep you full and give you the energy and strength to concentrate for the day' and 'fish is great for your brain and will help you concentrate at school.'  'A treat is ok occasionally, once you have eaten balanced meals'.  Eventually, it will all go in! 

 

So, in summary, I recommend giving your children a very nutritious start, check out my recent blog  How to get kids to eat a nutritious breakfast. Get your child's input for their lunch, followed by nutritious after school snack. 

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments! 

Fiona is a chef, home economist and mum of two. Her passions lie in cooking and sailing. She runs healthy cookery demos from her home in Dublin and provides in-company healthy cooking demos with Fiona’s food for life. Check out her awesome recipes and blog here.

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