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Lunchbox tips from Annabel Karmel:

The UK's leading baby and child nutrition expert gives her tips on ensuring school lunches are healthy, nutritious and eaten - as well as a recipe from her new book.
By Annabel Karmel
Date: May 15 2013
Editor Rating:

Recently I wrote about the importance of giving children nutritious lunches each day for school. If you want your child to love lunchtimes and stay healthy too, here are some more of my top lunchbox tips.

  • Children often like food they can eat with their fingers, so chop up raw vegetables such as carrots or sweet peppers, and include houmous or cottage cheese to dip the veggies in.  Wrap them in damp kitchen paper to prevent them drying out.
  • Cereal bars aren’t necessarily a healthy alternative to chocolate bars and cakes, as some contain over 40% sugar and 30% fat. The sugar in cereal bars also sticks to the teeth which could cause tooth decay.  Instead, fill their boxes with fresh fruit, dried fruit or unsalted nuts. My healthy oat and raisin cookies are delicious (see recipe below).  Muffins make for a great child-pleaser too.
  • To help towards their five-a-day, a tasty fruit salad is great because you can vary the fruit each day and get them trying new things like kiwi or melon. Put on your creative hat and you’ll be surprised how much they enjoy it!
  • Try getting lunches prepared the night before to save you time in the morning. You can prepare pasta salads, sandwich fillings, or include something from last night’s dinner like soup in a flask, chicken skewers or a Fritatta (Spanish Omelette).
  • Avoid too many processed foods as they tend to contain few nutrients and too much salt, sugar, additives and saturated fat. Instead of crisps or chocolate biscuits try offering Twiglets, popcorn, rice cakes or dried apricots.
  • On those slightly colder days, it’s a good idea to include something hot in a lunchbox. A wide mouthed mini thermos flask would be ideal for serving up a delicious cup of home-made or good quality tomato or minestrone soup. You could also put foods like baked beans or pasta in a flask.
  • Pure fruit juice contains 100% fruit juice as you would expect, however a ‘fruit juice drink’ can contain as little as 5% juice.  Many so-called ‘juice drinks’ are really only juice-flavoured sugary water and contain more water and sugar than actual juice and many also include artificial flavourings, sweeteners and colourings. Good alternatives are fresh fruit smoothies, probiotic mini yogurt drinks or plain old water.
  • You will need some plastic containers with lids that will fit in your child’s lunchbox. These are ideal for salads, ready prepared fruit and will keep sandwiches from getting squashed. It’s also a good idea to pop a small pack of wet wipes in your child’s lunchbox.

Here's a recipe to try from my latest book, Quick & Easy Toddler Recipes available online for $24.95. The book contains more than 100 delicious, nutritious time-saving recipes full of natural flavour. They include breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner; they're simple to follow; and the book includes more hints and tips. 

These cookies are a good example of something that are delicious and healthy.

Oat and Raisin Cookies

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking: 14 minutes

Makes 14 cookies

Suitable for freezing


75g butter, softened

75g caster sugar

1 small egg, beaten

60g plain flour

75g raisins

35g plain chocolate chips

50g sunflower seeds

1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

a pinch of salt

40g porridge oats


1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Line two baking sheets with non-stick paper.

3.  Whisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

4.  Add the egg, then the remaining ingredients. Mix until well combined.

5.  Spoon walnut-size balls onto the prepared baking sheets and put in the oven for about 14 minutes until lightly golden.

6.  Leave to cool, then remove from the baking sheets.


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