Health-packed lunch boxes

Michele Crew

If your little bundle of joy will eat only plain white rice or ketchup sandwiches, do not despair. All diets can be supplemented with vitamins, and how many grown-ups do you know who do not eat vegetables?

Children grow out of phases almost as quickly as grown-ups grow into them. The thing is to keep trying. They will thank you in the end.

Picky eaters' demands are often to do with fear of the unknown, habit and texture. If you make it a habit in your house to try new things, you will be half way there. Avoid the temptation to resort to sugar; we know this leads to seriously no good. Be brave and persevere.

Here are some suggestions for what a healthy and delicious school lunch box might contain. The golden rule is to avoid processed convenience foods. Time saving they may be, but they are not convenient for you or your children's health.


A fresh start: Finger-food sticks of crunchy vegetables; choose carrots, cauliflower and celery.

Filling up: Penne pasta and salad with a little olive oil and grated parmesan cheese. Add pesto for those who can handle a little extra flavour.

Fruit bowl: Orange and pomelo segments.

Energy boost: Additive-free foods with natural sugar sources such as honey and raw cane sugar; cereal bars from health-store outlets and delicatessens.

Tip: A lightly water-soaked piece of kitchen roll laid over the top of cut fresh vegetables, fruit and sandwiches will keep food moist until lunch time.

Note: Some cereal bars are more equal than others.

Many of the cereal bars presented as healthy, 'breakfast on the go' options are little more than confectionery bars dressed in healthy clothing. Read the ingredients on the label.


Fuel store: Dried apricots, prunes, pumpkin seeds and pine kernels.

Filling up: Sugar-free wholewheat sandwich. Mild cheddar cheese and lettuce, a little butter or mayonnaise, add dried cured ham (prosciutto) for baby carnivores.

Afternoon delight: Natural plain Fromage Frais, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Plain digestive biscuits.

Note: Dried apricots and prunes can be additive and additional sugar-free but the dried mixed fruit bags typically available are not. Check the ingredients on the back. Unless you are buying from health food outlets and have checked, selections which include apples, pears and peaches tend to have additional colouring, sugars and excessive preservatives.

Tip: If you need to include meat products, go for dried ones. In Hong Kong's heat, wet meats can go off quickly.


Change the routine: Swap Tupperware boxes for a small canteen, for a warming midday meal.

Yum, yum: Noodles with mixed steamed vegetables (cabbage, bean sprouts, broccoli and carrots) with a dash of soy sauce.

On the side: Add crunchy freshness with finger sticks of green apple, white turnip and cucumber chunks.

Sweets: Half a wholewheat bread and honey sandwich is 100 per cent healthier than a processed dessert and just as appealing. Half an apple.

Tip: The lightest rub with half a lemon will keep cut fruit from going brown. Rinsing vegetables in water with a little bicarbonate of soda is hygienic and retains colour.

Note: If your kids really do not like vegetables they can pick them out, but one day they may accidentally eat one and not notice, and you will be on the way.


Lunch-time surprise: Pita pockets. Fill soft and delicious wholewheat leavened bread pockets with hidden surprises like cream cheese and sweet sliced capsicums.

Half a big banana.

Sticky rice-packets cooked plain or with a little coconut milk for a filling desert.


Fish day: A salad of plain non-sticky rice, white flaked fish and sliced boiled egg. Plain as can be for sensitive taste palates. Add chopped chives, salt and pepper with a little oil and lemon for flavour and colour.

End of the week treat: Pureed apple and mixed berry compote.

Wholewheat crackers wedged together with delicious apricot fruit spread.

Tip: Fruit spreads carry less additional sugars and are congealed with pectin from grape or apple juice, providing a healthier, if slightly runnier, option to jellies or jams. Fruit compote is a great end-of-the-week way to dispose of tired fruit and mix whatever you have left in the refrigerator into a delicious and healthy fruit option. Great for gap-toothed five to nine year olds.