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Lockdown is here again and that means no more school dinners or breakfast clubs – most kids will be eating all three meals at home. This is a lot of pressure on parents to prepare something nutritionally balanced and tasty, and coming up with new ideas is tricky. Express.co.uk chatted to Laura Matthews (@lau_matthews_nutrition on Instagram), Registered Nutritionist specialising in children’s nutrition, to find out five easy lunch ideas to kids.
While spending more time with your kids is precious, keeping an eye on them, assisting them with schoolwork, and having to entertain them when they’re not being taught online is difficult.
For parents who work and those who don’t, children being schooled online is tough.
Let’s not forget the added pressure to make healthy meals from scratch while they’re at home instead of sending them off for school dinners or armed with a lunchbox that you made over the weekend.
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Registered Nutritionist Laura Matthews is an expert in children’s nutrition, and she said: “As many parents and children are now at home, it can feel like the preparation of snacks & meals is never-ending!
“Lunchtime can be a great opportunity to get in a portion of fruit and vegetables, so try to mix it up each day and keep the offering varied.”
For extra recipe inspiration, Laura has provided Express.co.uk with some healthy lunch ideas for primary school-age children.
Every one of these ideas could be eaten at home or school, with no need for heating facilities.
According to Laura, an everyday lunch is balanced and should ideally include the following:
● A portion of starchy carbs, eg. bread, pasta, potato, rice, etc.
● At least one portion of vegetables and one portion of fruit
● A portion of protein food, e.g. beans, pulses, egg, fish or meat
● A portion of dairy food such as plain yoghurt, cheese or milk
Falafel is delicious and can be served with a range of things- but Laura recommends pairing it with flatbread and chopped tomatoes and having raspberries and plain yoghurt to follow.
She said: “Try to use whole wheat carbohydrate options where possible as they are higher in fibre.
“Also try to buy fruit and veg in season because they are cheaper and tastier!
“With bread based lunches, vary the bread to keep lunches interesting.
“Bagels, wraps, pitta, focaccia- there is so much choice these days so the options are endless.”
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Frittata and leftovers
Frittatas are similar to omelettes – egg-based, versatile, and super quick and easy to make.
You can use the leftover veggies or meat from last night’s dinner and include them in your frittata if you want.
Laura recommends adding slices of courgette, cheddar cheese, and crinkle-cut pepper and serving with potatoes or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.
She added: “Leftovers from the previous night’s dinner are great for lunch the next day.
“Think roasted vegetables; pasta, potato or rice salad, couscous, pizza and protein foods such as cooked chicken or falafel served up in a wrap.
“Use a crinkle cutter to cut veggies like cucumber, pepper and carrot for a point of interest!”
Tinned fish and pasta salad
Tinned fish such as mackerel, salmon or tuna served with whole wheat penne pasta salad in a simple dressing is an ideal lunch for kids.
Dress the pasta with something like extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper and serve the dish with broccoli florets, feta and a tinned pear in juice alongside.
Laura said: “Tinned fish is a great lunch option to keep stocked in your cupboard when the fridge is bare!
“It’s such a versatile and cheap option which can be mixed with couscous, rice or pasta.”
If your kids get bored of the same old pasta, mix up the shapes and types you use – try red lentil pasta for something high in protein and fibre, spelt, or high fibre pasta.
Ploughman’s style lunch
A ploughman’s style lunch is another quick and easy idea your children will love.
Try serving them oatcakes or plain crackers, cubes of cheddar cheese, boiled egg wedges, carrot and cucumber sticks with sliced pear, apple, fig or cut grapes.
Laura added: “Include a portion of protein food each day at lunch as this is important for young children’s growth, maintenance and repair of muscles in the body.
“Beans, egg, fish and meat are all great options to serve with it.”
Picnic style lunch
What child doesn’t love picnic food?
Try feeding them pitta bread cut into strips to dip into hummus, alongside carrot sticks, crunchy lettuce leaves and mini mozzarella balls.
If you serve with mixed berries alongside this, you’re onto a winner.
Laura said: “Hummus is made from chickpeas, which is a great vegetarian or vegan source of protein.
“Make your own if you have time using chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and extra virgin olive oil as that way you can better control the salt content.
“I like to serve fruit (fresh, canned and dried are all great choices) alongside savoury ingredients to give children the freedom to eat in whatever order they wish. It puts all foods on a more even playing field.”
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