I’ve been making lunch boxes for a long, long time. The secret to making healthy lunches day after day comes in three parts: developing a good system, investing in a family food culture, and using good products.
Develop A Good System
One of the most significant things I have done to help with lunch boxes is developing a good system. I explain this in detail in this post: Establishing A Lunch Box System.
Invest in Family Food Culture
My children are getting older now, and I often get asked about when my children are going to make lunches for themselves. The short answer is: they already do. However, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. See, I am all for independence, but I also think we can’t expect kids to be mini nutritionists. So, as I have mentioned above, I focused on creating a simple system that becomes a general guideline for my kids to follow. Essentially we try for 1 x vegetable/1 x fruit/1 x bakery item/lunch item. Again, this is just a guideline, but you can see the lunch box examples below follow that general rule.
The other thing I have focused on in my family is that of community. So, yes, all my kids know how to do lunches and the sort of food that works well. This process didn’t just occur after one day of me teaching them how to do lunches, but more from experience in everyday life. Most weeks, we all shop together on the weekend, and talk about lunch box food etc.
Each day, lunches just gets done by someone. For example, it’s actually my 10-year-old son that often starts the lunches because he’s alway up so early. He lays out 4 lunch boxes and usually puts in the fruit and morning tea items. And either I, or if I am too busy, everyone will just complete the rest themselves. This morning, I did all the lunch boxes, but that doesn’t happen every day . One particular day, Miss 14 starts very early and she will get up, make her own such and get to school.
So what is important for me, is less about the age the kids are and more about investing in the culture of your family (if you’re interested in how I made vegetables part of our food culture, you can find a post here). Both independence and community in our family is important to me, so to be able to achieve that (and have input into healthier options) having a broad system is helpful — then it’s about working as a team and getting it done. This often means whoever is doing lunch boxes does 4 instead of 1. I don’t think my way is the only way but that is how it works well in our family. These days, lunches get done without fuss each morning.
Buy Great Products
Over the 12 years of making lunches, I’ve tried different lunch boxes. If you want to make healthy/litterless lunch boxes, you really need to invest in suitable products. Over the years, I would say my favourites are the GoGreen Lunch Box (these are HUGE so good for teens but they do take a lot of space in the school bag), laptop lunchbox (great for flexibility but do have a lot of containers) and the Yumbox (which comes in a variety of sizes).
In the past, I have stayed away from the Yumbox because the Original size is too small for my teenage children, however Yumbox have recently put out a new larger size called Tapas. I needed to upgrade because our GoGreen box handles have broken after 2 years and the kids wanted to try a smaller lunch box. So I’ve been putting the Yumbox Tapas through its paces for the past month and can say BIG THUMBS UP from both my teenage daughter and myself.
Ideally, you need these products in your kit for flexibility with the lunches you can make.
- Insulated case – The Project Ten case below is only $16.95 and it comes in adorable designs and fits the Yumbox well.
- Ice block – look for a flat one.
- Yumbox – comes with a 5 tray.
- Additional tray – the 4 tray comes in handy for different kinds of food.
- Optional – the round name tag for the insulated case is a good idea. You can personalise it, and makes for easier opening too.
Project Ten Insulated Case
Personalised name tag
The ice blocks keeps the lunch fresh. Check out this post for tips from a dietician for keeping lunches healthy during summer.
The great thing about Name My Stuff, your lunch box can be permanently marked with your child’s name (so no sticker needed).
Considerations & Observations
The Yumbox Tapas fits a good amount of food, and it’s super easy to wash. Just take out the tray and either put it in the top of the dishwasher, or hand wash in the sink (which I do). There are only the two parts (the outer lunch box and the tray) so it’s a really simple system which I also like. The compartments make dividing food quick, and I find it especially helpful for including a variety of foods. My teenage daughter really likes it; I would say she prefers it to any other lunch box we have tried, because it is slimline.
However, I do find you do need to adjust slightly for fitting food into the lunch box. For example, you need to cut up most fruit (an entire banana will not fit but I usually cut it in half). Apple is a regular at our place, so we cut it up in slices and squeeze a bit of lemon juice to keep it from going brown. Also, for the regular 5-tray, fitting a full sandwich is challenging (you can try different ways to use bread). However, the 4-tray fits a sandwich well (as you can see in one of the examples images below). As a family, we have moved away from the standard sandwich for lunch. While we often fall back on it, I find we are more creative with lunch options, and especially strive for good protein in the lunch box. If you’re interested, I have 100 lunch box food ideas here.
Once you get your head around cutting up food for the lunch box and providing a variety of smaller amounts of food, this really is one of the best lunch boxes you can get. My children really enjoy variety, and the lunch box keeps food well sectioned and fresh. You can even put yogurt in there (it does’t leak through to the other sections). The Yumbox comes in different colours and sizes, and you can get it personalised over at Name My Stuff.
I’ve included a snap shot of some of our lunches over the past weeks.
Strawberries | Avocado | Blue Corn Chips | Salami | Garlic Twist | Salad
Kiwi Fruit | Jam Bun | Tortilla Crisps | Cheese Cubes |Sausages |Tomato & Lettuce Salad
Banana | Snow Peas & Cherry Tomato | Boiled Egg | Liquorice | Salad Wrap
Kiwi Fruit | Cherry Tomato | Crepes | Seed Mix | Falafel | Salad
Ginger Loaf | Kiwi Fruit | Salad | Gherkins | Pizza Bread
Sandwich | Blueberry Muffin | Apple | Grated Cheese | Ham & Salad Sandwich
Crackers (beetroot, spinach, pumpkin) | Carrot & Salad | Strawberry | Salami Sticks | Bread Bites & Aioli Dip
Apple | Coleslaw | Lamington | Gherkin | Sushi
Cucumber | Strawberries | Mini Doughnut | Cherry Tomato | Vegemite Scroll
Tin Pear | Corn on the Cob | Brownie Bites | Cheese Cubes | Pasta
Orange | Greek Yoghurt & Berries | Blueberry Muffin | Noodle Crisps | Cucumber | Zucchini Slice
Mini Bread Bites | Banana Bread | Kiwi Fruit | Olives | Falafel | Kale Slaw
Apple | Cherry Tomato & Sugar Peas | Blueberry Muffin | Olives | Tuna | Flat Bread
Apple | Pineapple & Rockmelon | Popcorn| Salami | Rice Noodles & Veggies
Strawberries | Greek Yoghurt | Ginger Loaf | Olives | Pizza
Cucumber | Crackers & Cheese | Strawberry & Apple | Salami Wrap
Apples | Mini Choc Chip Biscuits | Coleslaw | Olives | Pumpkin Tortellini