Healthy lunch box ideas for kids

With school starting back this week, many parents have to add the chore of making packed lunches back to their long “to-do” lists. Here are some nutritious ideas which will not only get your kids excited about opening their lunch boxes, but will also give them plenty of energy to learn and play until the home-time bell rings.

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These ideas will give your children lots of energy as well as a good serving of nutrients as well (Photo by Sarah Pflug)

Think beyond the sandwich

Sandwiches are quick and easy to make but with a little bit of planning and some clever shopping, you can provide your kids with an interesting alternative. If cooking up rice or pasta sounds like too much faff, you can buy some great pre-cooked grain packages now. Or if cooking some for dinner just cook a little extra and keep in the fridge for the next day (cooked rice needs to be kept either hot or cold to stop bacteria from developing).

You could just pop some into a Tupperware with a little soy sauce and either some raw or cooked veg. You can even buy cooked flavoured rice such as Tilda’s Cheese and Tomato or Mild Curry rice that save you from having to do any prep at all.

 

Playful popcorn

Popcorn
Photo by Charles Deluvio 🇵🇭🇨🇦 on Unsplash

All supermarkets now sell a range of flavoured popcorn. Many manufacturers such as Propercorn now offer a wide variety of flavours that contain no refined sugar or artificial flavours. At around 100 kcals per bag they are great alternative to a packet of crisps.

 

Fruity variety

Bear, Nakd and supermarkets now offer a wide variety of bars and snacks made from dried and pureed fruit. These are sweet enough that children will enjoy eating them, but they also deliver a good serving of vitamins from the fruit.

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Cleverly designed lunchboxes make the chore of creating packed lunches gun

Embrace the Tupperware

Make like the 80s and rediscover the world of Tupperware in order to package up a wide range of snacks. There is a world of shapes and sizes available now such as the great range from Sistema. You can cut up veg such as peppers, carrots or cucumber, pack little pieces of cooked meat, fish or cheese, hard-boiled eggs, nuts (although please check if your school has a ‘nut free’ policy first), mini breadsticks, dried fruit and more. The possibilities are endless.

Chocolate rice cakes
These rice cakes from Itsu (https://www.itsu.com) are far more appealing than the plain variety and are available at many supermarkets

(Rice)cake is on the menu

Rice cakes are no longer the cardboard-like offering they once were. There are now a huge variety of flavours available including chocolate and yoghurt covered, caramel, cheese, BBQ and more. Although the nutritional value of them is fairly low, they are a worthwhile addition to a lunchbox if they allow your child to enjoy a strong flavour without having to take on a high number of calories with equally low nutritional value.

(Please note, I am by no means suggesting keeping childrens’ caloric intake down. I am suggesting merely keeping calories that are low in nutritional value down.)

Paleoathome
Follow @Paleoathome for a wealth of lunch box inspiration

Want more inspiration?

For amazing inspiration for nutritious lunchbox ideas I highly recommend following @Paleoathome on Instagram. Creator Emma Farrell regularly posts pics of her daughter’s incredible lunch boxes. The enviable packed lunches feature a wide variety of creatively chopped fruit and veg, homemade “gummy sweets”, and ingenious meat, fish and egg creations. Warning: they will make the basic ‘cheese sandwich, packet of crips, KitKat and an apple’ lunch box seem well below par. They have been known to make me feel a large amount of mum guilt, LOL. 

Please tag in my in pics of your most ingenious snack ideas on Instagram (I’m @hilton_health) in order to win a Sistema Bento Cube. I look forward to seeing your creations.

Plan for a healthy festive period

christmas-buddy
Buddy says “Merry Christmas” 

The Christmas season is lurking around the corner. You’ve been working hard all year to be healthy and now fear it all being undone in a few short weeks.

Here a five tips to help you keep healthy over the festive period, so you don’t have to join the masses slogging their guts out in the gym come January.

Plan, plan, plan – You will know how many evenings you can be out per week without it taking its toll. Set that number in your head now and don’t exceed it. Make sure it’s a number that will allow you to get a good amount of sleep. On the evenings you’re at home nourish your self with nutritious food and get to bed early.

Schedule alcohol-free days – Designate certain days of the week alcohol-free and stick to it. Even if you are at a celebration on one of those days opt for non-alcoholic drinks.

Sleep – I already touched on it above but don’t burn the candle at both ends. We need at least eight hours sleep per night in order to stay healthy, and at this time of year with extra germs flying around we need all the help we can get.

Plan your indulgences – Are you a sucker for mince pies? Do you love to snuggle up with a glass of mulled wine? Can you not get enough pigs in blankets? Or do the kids have to fight you for the Roses tin? Be mindful about your indulgences this Christmas. Allow yourself the foods you enjoy but in sensible amounts, and in a conscious way. Set realistic limits and stick to them. Only allow yourself five chocolates at a time for example. Or perhaps only drink mulled wine at social events. Setting yourself these boundaries in advance will prevent you from mindlessly chomping through the calories.

Move – If you do no exercise at all throughout the Christmas period it can be very hard to get back to your exercise routine come January. Whatever number of exercise sessions you tend to do on a “normal” week, stick to it during the festivities, even if you need to make swaps. You may change you Friday morning kettlebell session for a winter walk with the kids for example, or your Tuesday night circuits class for a 20 min jog. Maintaining the habit of exercising is far better than having to restart the habit again in January.

 

Enjoy Christmas in a healthy way, focussing on spending time with the people you love. Your soul and waistline will thank you for it.

Merry Christmas x

Lunch on the go

11358215_1455462974773612_78535042_nMornings are hectic, I get it. It’s challenging enough to get everyone to where they have to be, with the right bag, snack and drink, without stopping to think about your own lunch. Then lunchtime comes around and your only option is the work canteen’s gloopy offerings, the vending machine or the cafe next door.

With a small amount of planning and savvy shopping though, you could change all of this. Here are a few ideas lunch hacks that will improve the nutrient density of your food you eat at work:

  • Pre-cooked chicken or fish– comes in a variety of flavours but plain is best if trying to avoid sugar and other additives. Pair with a bag of salad for a chicken salad.
  • No-cook grains – I love this one from Waitrose. You don’t have to cook it and paired with meat, veg, or even just some tamari soy sauce you’ve got a filling lunch.
  • Noodle pots – Itsu do some great ones but there are others available. Add boiling water and you have a healthy, filling lunch ready to go.
  • Last night’s dinner – It’s an oldie but a goodie. Cook a little extra for dinner and pot it up for lunch the next day.

Hopefully that gives you a few ideas to help revolutionise your lunch. If you have any other suggestions please share them.

 

Quick nutritious breakfasts

For most people, week-day mornings are a flurry of teeth brushing, school uniform, packed lunches, trying to make yourself clean and vaguely presentable (in my case), and harassing the children to quickly eat their breakfast. It’s no surprise then that many mums fail to eat breakfast themselves, and that many who do munch on something that is severely lacking in nutrients, while trying to perform seven other tasks at the same time.

There is another way however. With a savvy shopping list and a little advance preparation advance, you can start the day in a much healthier way.

Here are a few breakfast ideas for those who feel their breakfast has reached a desperate state.

  • Granola
    You could make a batch of granola at the weekend

    Scrummy granola – I bake a batch a week. In the morning just add some milk or yoghurt (natural and organic if possible) to it, and fruit if you have time (I buy frozen berries and put a mixture in a tupperware in the fridge to defrost the evening before).

 

  • Chia seed pudding – I use the recipe in Ella’s book rather than this one, but the fundamentals are the same. Either way you can make it the night before and it’s ready to eat in the morning. This is a great option for eating on the go if you’re really tight on time, or if you can’t stomach eating first thing. Plus chia seeds are super good for you!

 

 

  • porridge
    Soak the oats the night before and you can make this porridge quickly the next morning

    Creamy coconut porridge – When I first discovered this recipe I had it daily for months. It’s wonderfully filling, delicious and nutritious. If you soak the oats overnight the 10-min cooking time reduces to two mins, and also increases their nutrient density too.

 

  • Scrambled eggs (preferably organic) on toast – at first this sounds like too much faff. But if you have a microwave this is easy peasy. Simply whisk an egg, milk, a little butter and pepper together, and microwave for about 90 secs, beating every 30 secs. Your toast will probably take longer than the eggs. We should all eat at least one egg a day, so this way you get yours in early, plus the protein of egg is slow to release so we feel fuller for longer. Add a little mashed avocado to this for a truly heavenly start to the day.

 

  • If like me, you are a frequent visitor to high-street cafes, you will have noticed that bircher is all the rage at the moment. No it’s not a type of tree but an oat, apple and lemon juice-based breakfast option. Jamie’s Overnight Bircher is another nutritious choice you can prep the night before.

 

So hopefully that list has inspired you in some way, and saves you from the bacon butties in the work canteen at least a few days a week. If you have any other breakfast suggestions, then please share them.

Scrummy and nutritious granola

Granola.jpgI’m often asked about quick yet nutritious breakfasts. This granola is a great option. I usually make a batch a week.

To make it I get 240g oats and add about 300g of nuts (brazils and almonds used here), about 300g pumpkin/sunflower seeds and about 200g milled flax seeds, but you can adjust those amounts depending on what you like and what you have in the cupboard.

In a saucepan melt 4 tbsp of coconut oil and 4 tbsp honey and two tsps cinnamon together. Poor the melted mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients, mix together and bake in the oven at about 180C in a fan oven, or 200C in a conventional oven.

Stir it every ten mins to ensure everything toasts evenly. It will take 30-40 mins to cook. Once it’s done add a big handful of raisins to the mixture.

Enjoy with yogurt and fruit, or just on its own as an on-the-go snack.

Recipe books that help me stay healthy

If you’re anything like me you’ll have a vast number of recipe books in your bookcase, but actually use just a handful regularly. As many of you may be in the early stages of a new resolution to eat healthier, I thought now might be a good time to let you know the recipe books that I frequently turn to for inspiration.

Ella

Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward – I love that most of Woodward’s recipes are based on a list of core ingredients, so that once you have those in the kitchen you can make loads of the recipes without having to buy a list of obscure ingredients you only need a tiny bit of. I use Ella’s almond butter, coconut porridge, chia seed pudding and cinnamon pecan granola recipes all the time, and  many more are frequently used too. It’s probably the most-used recipe book I’ve ever had.

Slow cooker

Hamlyn All Colour 200 Slow Cooker Recipes – Slow cookers are a great way to ensure that you don’t start raiding the cupboards for quick fixes as soon as you get home. Instead of quickly filling up on processed foods you can tuck into a delicious wholesome meal that’s been bubbling away all day. My family’s favourite recipe from this book is the sausage and onion gravy casserole.

 

Super JamieEveryday Super Foods by Jamie Oliver – In this book’s accompanying series Jamie states, “I want you to eat healthy foods not because you have to, but because it’s delicious.” Now that is an ethos that I totally agree with, and with recipes like these I think it’s very easy to achieve. I’m working my way through the book, and the recipes are all very tasty and simple to prepare. I think the family favourite so far is the vegetable lasagne made with spinach and roasted butternut squash. Delicious.

RiverfordRiverford Farm Cook Book – I use this book when I have a few veggies hanging about that need to be used up, as the contents are listed by veg. This allows me to be much more creative with veggies, which is fun for me and also means that my children and far more likely to eat them.

 

 

Neal's YardNeal’s Yard Healing Foods – This book turns your kitchen into a pharmacy, as it advises you which foods to use (and how) to cure a whole range of ailments. You can either look up a particular food, or the symptom you wish to ease. There are also meal plans with a particular focus, for example to improve heart health, maintain healthy joints and to help relieve stress.

 

Clean and leanClean and Lean Diet by James Duigan – This book was a bit of a game-changer for me, because as I read it I experienced quite a lot of “light bulb” moments that enabled me to see where I’d been going wrong with my nutrition for years. Having implicated the changes Duigan suggested I saw my body shape improve in way that it never had before. Ever better was the fact that those changes were unbelievably simple, and also perfectly logical once I stopped to think about it.

Good FoodBBC Good Food website – Ok, I know this isn’t a book, but I use it all the time so I couldn’t not mention it here. There are recipes on here from many celebrity chefs and you can search by difficulty level, preparation time, dietary requirements and more. Like the Riverford book I often use this when I have a particular ingredient I wish to use but am lacking in inspiration.

Do you have any other books that you would add to this list? If so please comment on this post.

 

‘Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us’ by Michael Moss

Salt, Sugar, Fat bookThis is something of a book review but also a reiteration of something I read and talk about a lot. That is the simple fact we as individuals are not as responsible for our own waistlines as we might think. The food manufacturers have got a great deal to answer for, as it is due to their addictive products, savvy marketing and the scientifically planned food shops that are actually largely to blame.

The people behind all the fattening and sugary products out there know full well that human beings are hard-wired to seek out the most delicious and fattening foods available. This harkens back to our caveman days when sweet foods meant the occasional berry bush you may stumble on, and fattening meant the fat of the animals you had hunted down with your bare hands. Of course food gathering is very different these days but our biology hasn’t changed. So the tastes and macronutrients (fat, protein and carbs) we were only supposed to consume sparingly, can be consumed as much as we like, and we do. As the book says, “They’ve discovered that the brain lights up for sugar the same way it does for cocaine, and this knowledge is useful, not only in formulating foods.”

And the people behind the products know this, as pointed out in the book with a quote from the former CEO of General Mills, the company behind Cherrios, Lucky Charms and the Betty Crocker products: “Don’t talk to me about nutrition,” he said, taking on the voice of a typical consumer. “Talk to me about taste, and if this stuff tastes better, don’t run around trying to sell stuff that doesn’t taste good.”

Some of the top food execs have had more of a conscience than others and tried to make changes to the nutritional profile of their companies’ products, but generally these execs have not lasted long when they have tried out this approach. Their companies are there to make money after all, and therefore the more people like the products the more they will buy, and the more money they’ll make. Duh!

The book talks about the various diet trends we go through, and how the food manufacturers cash in on this. All those “low fat” or “sugar free” products attract people to their products who would usually avoid them. But the loss of fat or sugar comes at a dietary cost. In order to make up for the removed element, a long list of additives are usually added to make up for the loss in flavour. As I’ve said in previous posts this makes for foods that our body is not designed to process, which leads to all manner of problems for the human body. It is very telling to me that the book points out that a great many of the people who work for the big companies avoid all processed foods.

I could go off on one because this is a topic that really riles me, but if you are in anyway interested then I urge you to read the book. The reason that I wanted to blog about it is because I want people to realise that the products that cause us to pile on the pounds have been painstakingly created so that you can’t resist buying and eating them, in order that you make the companies behind them lots of money.

We all beat ourselves up when we indulge and blame our lack of willpower but the reality is that in this day and age it is extremely hard to rise above all the salt, sugar and fat that is out there to tempt us. Once you know what the food manufacturers are up to however, you can see through their marketing strategies and consequently get much better at resisting their products. And when you do and realise how much you feel much better for it and it is strangely liberating.

Buy ‘Salt, Sugar, Far: How the Food Giants Hooked Us’ on Amazon.