Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Those School Lunches

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Following on from your comments/emails requesting info on what I put in my boy's lunches, here's the drum.

Firstly, I was a Dietitian-Nutritionist in my previous life. A Paediatric Dietitian. Not much use to me now, building houses, flogging lights and such.... but no education is wasted I say.... even after five long, hard, technical years at Uni (including a Science degree thrown in for good measure). I have a wonderful knowledge base that comes in quite useful at times ... particularly during school science homework. Getting up into the higher grades, my big son now thinks I am a font of knowledge. It's easy to impress him at his age. The contents of PL365 Advance Hormonal Endocrinology and BC306 Animal Biochemistry would impress any knowledge thirsty 14 year old. That BC 306 was my only Biochemistry High Distinction.....ever.... I loved that subject... it was all vitamin biochemistry... it was what made me decide to do Dietietics. Just sayin'.

I digress. 

So, considering my 'long ago' background.... I send my boys off to school with a fair whack of nutrition....something not much different to the 'Oslo' lunch from the 1940's..... a variation on the wholemeal cheese and salad sandwich, fresh fruit and milk product of some sort. No magic ingredient there..... just a nice balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat.

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Every day they get some sort of wholemeal/wholegrain sandwich, pita bread, or wrap. They love wraps. I fill them full of salad.... lettuce wrapped around tomato (so the whole thing doesn't go soggy), grated carrot, sprouts... with some cheese or ham. Little one gets some mayo on his and big son...taco sauce. Loves it!

I sit these wraps on the bottom of the esky/lunchbox, on the first of two icepacks I use to keep everything safe from food poisoning bugs. Always wary of the bugs.

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Next?.. always a whole piece of fruit - apple/pear/banana/mandarine or fresh pineapple pieces.

Then a second serving of fruit in the form of an easy homemade fruit salad ....grapes/blueberries/strawberries/diced orange/kiwi fruit... whatever is in the bottom of the fridge and needs using up.

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I always pack 2 serves of fruit, one for morning tea, one for lunch. I stay away from muesli bars, dried fruit, fruit straps or any other fruit bars as despite their 'health tags' they are full of sugar and tragic for beautiful developing teeth and lean active little bodies. 

Next - the milk product - either a fruit yoghurt or full cream UHT milk popper or both (my boys eat heaps, so it's often both). I use the little UHT milk poppers just in case little one is full.... he has been instructed to bring anything he doesn't eat, so I can see what he likes and doesn't like and two, so I can salvage and reuse, say if it is the popper or whole apple or something that can't have spoiled during the day. Big one loves the Sanitarium UP and Go's so he gets them as a treat. I cannot fill that boy.

I use full cream milk products as my boys are growing and need the fat.

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Next the 'snacky' things. They vary daily but the staples are:
  • cherry tomatoes (especially the Perino ones from Coles)... my little one LOVES them.
  • carrot sticks with light cream cheese or salsa
  • cheese cubes/cheesestick/little tub of baby bocconchini - little tubs, my boys love opening cute little tubs... I make it fun.
  • ricecrackers/corn thins
  • homemade popcorn
  • home made something - banana muffins/the old staple jam drop/oat slice/anzac biscuits
Drinks - we don't do fruit juice - looking after their teeth and teaching them life long habits about not drinking kilojoules. Just water and milk. They need kilojoules to grow but I am teaching them the best sources of those kilojoules and the well known concept of 'empty calories' in junk foods that provide no nutrition.

Don't get me wrong, they eat junk. 'There is a time and a place' as they say... but their school lunches, to me, are vitally important to nourish them and teach them about making good food choices. They look around and compare their lunches to others.. what kid doesn't? They get it. Little one has expressed deep concern for one little tike who gets 4 packets of chips and a soft drink in his lunch box every day. The mind boggles. 

Big one does tuckshop on Guitar Ensemble days as he is out the door at 6.30am. He confesses to a treat or two... or three... but he does source the sushi or something 'wholemeal-ish' for his main feed. The brainwashing is working. He's honest. You let out the reigns and see if what you have taught them rubs off. It does, if you have been consistent. 

Oh and I forgot, the last thing I put in.... before the top icepack to keep it all frosty cold.... is an 'I Love You/I'm Proud Of You' note. Very important. Nourishes their hearts.

Happy Wednesday. It's raining today. Big time. I am heading up to a display village with a client to scheme her 'soon to be new home'! 

Addendum: Laura, over at 'Spotty Owl Designs', has some great school lunchbox links HERE.


  1. That sounds exactly like the lunches my sister & I were sent to school with! We would be envious of the kids who got cookies or some other treat but my parents were right - healthy was best.

  2. Thx for sharing- apt post as my chn go back next week! Also reinforces what I'm packing!

  3. Having worked in a school I was shocked to see what most parents put in a lunch box.They are either blissfully unware of the things they call"food" that are packaged into their boxes or they are downright lazy and don't care what their child eats.
    We seem to forget that health should be one of our top priorities especially for our children.

  4. Thanks A-M, I will glean some ideas for the lunch boxes next week.

    We are on the right track here but I have had the boys on low-fat dairy for a long time and now think I may not need to worry so much (they are SO lean).

    We saw the dentist yesterday and I am so relieved there are no issues. Big responsibility looking after three little mouths!! They did come away with a sense of how they can care for their teeth, so well worth the effort.

  5. I'm storing this away for the days when I have little people to make lunches for! X

  6. Great to read your lunchbox foods! It sounds the same as here. Except my two school aged children adore apples but only peeled. It gets stuck in their teeth apparently. Sigh.

    One day I will be the one doing the display home run. Any recommendations on where to look here in Brisbane?

  7. A-M I love writing little notes in with their happy to hear that someone else does it children really enjoy that special little note at lunchtime. Have another beautiful raining day xx

  8. My hubby has the same background as you and school lunches is one thing that is never compromised in this house either.
    On the writing of notes I have done this throughout the school years too. occasionally I will open my lunch box on a work day and find a gorgeous little handwritten one from her - absolutely priceless!

  9. Wow! Very well planned out lunches. Impressed! You are definitely setting them up well for life! Xx

  10. Wow! Ver well though out lunches. Impressed! You are setting them up well for life! Xx

  11. Oh dear! I had forgotten the Oslo lunches! They made my life hell for a year. They were really not nearly as interesting as your lunches.
    You really are an amazing Mum. xx

  12. Very similar to what my Miss 4 eats except she's only 4 and a girl so she only eats about half as much, hahaha!!

    I've got a lunchbox blog post going live soon and will be editing it to link to this post.... please elt me know if you want me to remove it?

    Laura x

  13. You good Mummy!! Your lunchboxes sound wonderful and deliciously nutritious unlike half of the ones I used to see each day as a teacher - some are quite scary!!

  14. Your blog post made me so happy to read, to see that there is someone else out there who thinks school lunches are more than chips and "something bars". Being new to the Australian school system and also new to having to pack lunch for my girl it has been quite daunting at times. I believe in the same foods as you pack and so far there has been no complaints so somehow I think my brainwashing and also the lovely kinder teachers talk about healthy food has helped. My only concern is that my girl is way to "busy" at lunch time and snack time so she forgets to eat and when I pick her up she "collapses" in to tears for nothing because she has run out of energy by then. So I'm now thinking of new strategies for the new term that starts in a week.
    I so would like more schools to adopt a more healthy lunch program.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Anette :-)

  15. Oh how I wish all of my kids ate salad. It would make school lunches much more fun ... and varied! A great book I was given when my eldest started school is called "Lunchbox 100" by Hellyer & Clark. Great ideas for those of us who are over the vegemite & cheese sanger!
    As a teacher, I've seen some amazing lunches as well as some horrendous ones. I once counted 11 chocolate items e.g. Milky Way, choc muesli bar, choc biscuits in a Year One's lunch box. I thought she had packed her lunch but apparently her mum had!
    Sadly though, my friends kids used to get teased for the lunches they used to bring to school; in eskies, packed to the brim with great food. Hardly a sandwich in sight, but rather home made gourmet salads, baking, etc. Who'd think that you could get teased for not eating a pie or having a cheese sandwich?

  16. When I put a banana in, I wrote the note directly on the skin with a fine tip permanent pen. I can just see the smile as they see Mummy and a heart and eat it up happily.
    You've made me rethink having juice in the fridge, it is empty calories and I catch my 6 year old filling up on it right before dinner and always ends in a fight. I'm not buying it anymore!!! Thanks for that. Also, I saw on Today Tonight last year a story on UP and Go with a man drinking one and then blowing a positive reading on a police breath test. I used to give my boy one in the car on the way to school, growing and hungry post egg/toast breaky but got a bit put off after seeing this. Wonder how that worked. Thanks for a lovely read as always.

  17. yikes haven't we come a long way since pies and donuts (my era!) makes me sound old... ahem, sorry bout that.

  18. Oh dear, I feel so inadequate now. We generally try to be healthy but every now and then we do succumb to the odd fruit juice popper....ok, and the occasional very small chocolate bar. But then we live in Dubai and believe me when I tell you that health is not high on the agenda in the school lunch boxes of most kids although the schools do try to educate parents about the benefits of good food. I think Dubai has the highest per capita incidence of child diabetes in the world - or something like that. It's hard to compete on the excitement factor of a healthy lunch compared to one that is full of lovely junky surprises. But we persevere. I think I am the "uncool" Mum!

  19. Wow! Just, wow! Your boys have grown so big over the summer A-M. And you care for them so much (every loving detail from clothing to lunches). I miss those days before I was an adult and life was more carefree. I hope their first week is amazing!


  20. Great advice A-M. I have fought for 18 years to get my DS to eat healthy. At school he would skip lunch to play soccer instead:(. At home DH taught him disgusting eating habits:(. So after 18 years he will soon be leaving home and he will make his own food choices. I pray that some of what I have been teaching him has sunk in. Time will tell:).

  21. I did my bit and sent my girls with very similar lunch boxes to yours but I'm sad to say that their contemporaries generally had boxes crammed to the gills with chocolate bars and crisps.
    My younger daughter latterly told me that she was given crapola by friends and threw away her good stuff. No point in being angry *after* the event as my girls are in their twenties now, BUT as grown women they are every bit the Nutrition Nazi that I was. Q.E.D. yes, the message does sink in!

  22. A-M, thank you so much for taking the time to put up this lunch-inspiring post. I'm typing on my phone, as my desktop has died, so I apologise for the stilted language and any typos!

    I had completely forgotten the Oslo lunch - my first cooking lesson, I recall now. Complete with retro pictures, it's a very good way to inspire thinking about where we've come from, what we value now, and that what our mothers would have called 'commonsense', is probably still good sense.

    I was interested by the comments above, about kids who are criticised by their peers for having nutritious or exotic lunches. My daughter's best friend in primary school was a Japanese boy, who brought onigiri etc in a bento box. Other kids commented on it, but I guess he liked eating it so much, he wasn't swayed by the critics. Now, that daughter packs bento box lunch for her 4yo sister (the girls are 17 yrs apart), so I guess that Japanese mother educated bystanders in ways she might never have expected at the time. In your own circle, of sons' school friends, blog readers, I think you might be doing the same A-M.

    I just need to tailor it to capture the enthusiasm of my jaded teenage boys. TBC...

  23. shared on my fb page, terrific post
    alicia :)

  24. I loved reading your lunch post. My kids generally get a sandwich and one or two pieces of fruit. I have to say also that when things happened last year, I did wonder what had actually happened ... I thought your husband had perhaps died and perhaps in many ways he did. I am glad for you that you are progressing forward since that time and that you are going in leaps and bounds. Good on you! (And the kid with 4 packets of chips and a soft drink makes me happy my kids no longer have a canteen at their school ....)


Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave me a comment. I love hearing from you. A-M xx