If your kids are feeling the back-to-school blues, maybe a few new ideas for their lunchbox is just the thing to boost mood, help concentration and make sure their energy levels don’t flag come 2pm.

Vital Nutrition’s School Lunch Box Checklist

  • Make it colourful – a rainbow of colourful fruit and vegetables will ensure your child has a good intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for a healthy immune system and energy production. A few raw carrot sticks, a couple of sugar snap peas or some red pepper strips make perfect finger food even for small children. A little pot of berries, a small banana or a fruit kebab will make fruit more interesting than a plain apple or banana. Keep chopped apple fresh by adding a zesty squeeze of lime juice.
  • Build in some protein, essential for growth and development as well as helping to maintain mood and energy throughout the afternoon. Chicken drumsticks, a hardboiled egg, some leftover roast beef, smoked mackerel pate or a mini pot of houmous are all good sources of protein.
  • Slow release carbohydrate will sustain and maintain your child’s energy and concentration. Replace white bread sandwiches with filled wholemeal pitta pockets, couscous salad or mini oatcakes to ring the changes.
  • Careful with salt – the mainstay foods of most children’s packed lunches are crisps, ham and cheese, all of which are loaded with salt. Replace ham and cheese sandwiches with chicken, egg or tuna and use wholemeal breadsticks, toasted seed snacks or plain popcorn instead.
  • Choose a healthy treat – homemade flapjacks (see recipe below), a little 70% chocolate or a couple of dried apricots will give your child a sweet treat without the sugar rush.
  • Hydrate your child with water. Smoothies, cordials and fruit juices tend to be loaded with sugar. Plain water is the best choice for your kid’s lunchbox.

Think outside the lunchbox!

  1. Mix some tuna mixed with a little horseradish sauce, a dollop of natural yoghurt, a twist of black pepper and some scallions. Serve in a wholemeal pitta pocket with some rocket or grated carrot. Add an apple and a little portion of dried fruit with seeds for a healthy sweet treat.
  2. A selection of oatcakes, crackers or breadsticks with a cooked chicken leg (leftover from last night’s dinner), a mini pot of houmous, some carrot sticks, sugar snap peas and a few cherry tomatoes. Include some yoghurt and a piece of fruit for an interesting and inventive lunch that will be the envy of your classmates.
  3. Pasta or rice salad with pesto, chicken, chopped tomato, cucumber and avocado. Include a homemade flapjack and a pear for pudding.
  4. Couscous cooked in stock (for flavour) with chickpeas, feta cheese, tomatoes, peppers, a squeeze of lemon juice and a little olive oil. A pot of berries and some yoghurt for dessert.

Check out The Vital Nutrition Cookbook for lots of healthy lunch ideas.