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Healthy lunch and snack ideas for children

Senior Specialist Dietitian at Bupa Cromwell Hospital
29 May 2020

Since 23 March, parents have had to provide all meals and snacks for their children at home. On top of other tasks, such as home schooling, work and daily chores, it can be a challenge to keep foods varied and healthy. As a mother of two boys, aged six and eight, I’d like to share some healthy lunch and snack ideas, and ways to keep things easy when feeding the family.


Making it work for your family

What works for one family, may not work for another. The key is finding a routine to your day, and slotting meals and snack around it. For my family, I have found it useful to have a light, healthy lunch, with different fruits on offer for snacking through the day. We then have a substantial dinner before all going out for a walk or cycle at the end the day.

At the weekend, I try to be more creative with food as we have much more time. My six-year-old loves getting his hands messy. So we often bake together and he loves tasting the mixture!

a child's hand kneading dough

Healthy lunches

Most days, I’m juggling managing the boys with zoom calls and household jobs. So I’ve found that making sandwiches for lunch has been a quick, nutritious and delicious meal solution. For example, sandwich fillings provide protein, such as grated cheese, eggs, peanut butter, tuna, salmon or lean meat. You can also vary the filling and type of bread to mix it up, so things don’t get boring. Here are some ideas.

  • Explore different breads, such as ciabatta, wraps, seeded bread, bloomers or sourdough.
  • Spreads such as light mayonnaise, mustard and pesto are great additions to a sandwich to pack in more flavour.

a plate of healthy sandwiches


Below are some more healthy, but filling lunch ideas for your children (and you).

  • Sardines on toast.
  • Baked beans on jacket potatoes.
  • Toast with peanut butter, cheese spread or hummus.
  • Raw vegetables cut into sticks (eg, carrots, tomato and cucumber).
  • Toasted muffin or bagel with salmon or cream cheese. Add capers and a squeeze of lemon for more flavour.
  • Scones, crumpets or pancakes.

Healthy snacking

I’ve found my children asking for snacks a lot since lockdown. It can be hard to always have healthy options to hand, but try to keep chocolate and crisps to an occasional treat. Also, try not to let them fill up on snacks between mealtimes. Here are some healthy snack ideas.

  • Plain yoghurt or fromage frais topped with their favourite fruit.
  • Sliced or chopped fruits (eg, apples, pears, bananas and grapes).
  • Sticks of cheese or a cup of milk.
  • Rice cakes, breadsticks or oatcakes.
  • Walnuts, almonds or peanuts with some raisins (please make sure your child is not allergic).

Dried fruits should be kept to mealtimes only, as it has a higher concentration of sugar that can contribute to the development of tooth decay.

mixed nuts on a wooden board

 

Top tips for healthy eating at home

  • Offer your children a wide variety of foods to make sure that they get all the nutrients and energy they need. Give them a range of foods from the four main food groups: carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy.
  • Try to plan your meals for a few days ahead and order bigger deliveries, or do fewer shops.
  • Give your family a mixture of white, brown and wholegrain bread varieties so they don’t get bored of the same bread. This will provide them with carbohydrate, various vitamins and fibre.
  • Give your children the opportunity to pick a meal once a week. If they’re old enough, they may be able to cook some of it, helping with chopping, adding ingredients and serving it. We like to celebrate the end of the week by making pizzas together on a Friday evening.
  • We have been eating meals together more as a family than before lockdown. But try to be flexible – sometimes mine and my husband’s work schedules mean we have lunch separately.
  • In order to get a variety of fruits and vegetables, I have a seasonal box delivered directly from a local farm every week. My children help me to unpack the box, wash it and present the fruits nicely in a bowl. Having a rainbow of fruits and vegetables will provide your children with different vitamins (especially vitamin C) and fibre.

Recipe: Simple blueberry muffins

These muffins are easy to make and a healthy snack for hungry kids.

three blueberry muffins

Ingredients

  • 10 stoned prunes
  • 175g wholemeal flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2g sugar
  • One egg
  • 150 semi skimmed milk
  • 100g blueberries

Method

  1. Make the prune purée by blending the prunes with a little water until they have the same consistency as double cream.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar.
  3. Beat the egg and milk into the prunes purée.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the flour and beat thoroughly.
  5. Mix in the blueberries, while being careful not to break the fruit too much.
  6. Divide into muffin cases and cook for 25 minutes at 200°C.

Enjoy!

Maya Aboukhater
Senior Specialist Dietitian at Bupa Cromwell Hospital

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