Lunch box ideas

Maya Driver

Jamie Oliver may have revolutionised school dinners as we know them, but many parents and their children still choose to make packed lunches. If you prepare your child's lunch every day, you've probably found yourself wondering what to give them that's both healthy and enjoyable.

The Government's School Food Trust has guidelines to follow that are useful, but not very exciting. They mention fruit and veg, proteins, starchy foods, dairy and water while advising against crisps, chocolate and sausage rolls. We all know what kids should be eating, but it's not so easy to get them to eat it! So here are a few packed lunch ideas.

Our first piece of advice is to ask your child what the other kids are eating (and then go one better!) as children can often feel left out or envious of classmates' lunches. Instead of regular sandwiches, mini pitas cut in half stuffed with sandwich fillings such as tuna, hummus, salad or veg are more fun and also healthy. Or use wholemeal tortillas as wraps - either pre-roll the wrap or pack the tortilla and filling separately so your child can make their own wrap. If you want to stick to sandwiches, cutting them into shapes make them more interesting. For a break from bread, pasta and rice salads are tasty, interesting and easy to make.

Children tend to like mini foods so small cubes of cheese with some grapes, baby tomatoes, carrot and cucumber sticks and mini crackers can be a great idea. Pack a container of dressing or hummus to use for dipping. Every now and then a small amount of your child's favourite food is a nice treat - such as a mini slice of pizza, chicken drumsticks or potato wedges. Make sure you get some fruit and veg in there but cut it into bitesize pieces or perhaps include some dried fruit pieces.

As well as different types of food, you could also include some stickers or a note or a small toy to make it more fun - ever noticed how popular Happy Meals are? Children will enjoy their lunches if they are interactive, tasty and different.