Warm Lunchboxes

It’s difficult to get excited about a jam sandwich when it’s cold and raining outside. Here are some warm lunchbox ideas that will whet your child’s appetite on those busy and cold winter days.

In winter, my 10-year-old thinks I’m the best mum in the world if I pack a thermos full of pumpkin soup for her lunch. Of course, soup is not the only option. Our tried and tested favourites include macaroni cheese, stir-fries and mild curries.

The recipes below serve two lunch portions for a 5-year-old, or one portion for a hungry pre-teen. If your child likes spices, by all means experiment by adding a bit of black pepper or curry powder to any of the recipes.

macaroni cheese

  • teaspoon oil
  • 1.5 teaspoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup grated cheese
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 2 cups cooked pasta shells, elbows or penne
  1. Heat the oil and butter.
  2. Add the flour and stir.
  3. Gradually add the milk, stirring all the time, and continue heating until the sauce thickens.
  4. Add cheese and ham.
  5. Pour over the cooked pasta.

fried rice

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1.5
    cup chopped vegetables (fresh or frozen, I usually do a mix of peas, corn, zucchini and broccoli)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  1. Heat the oil.
  2. Add the vegetables and herbs. Stir-fry until they’re cooked.
  3. Add the eggs and stir for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add soy sauce and rice.

pumpkin soup

  • 1 cup peeled and cut pumpkin
  • 1 cup peeled and cut potato
  • 2 cups stock
  1. Place all the ingredients in a pot.
  2. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Zap in the blender.
  4. Optional: add a tablespoon of cream, yogurt, or cream cheese.

sausage in sauce

  • 1 small onion or capsicum
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 precooked chicken sausages
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  1. Wash and dice the capsicum (or peel and dice the onion).
  2. Fry it in oil until soft.
  3. Add oregano and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat.
  4. Chop the sausage and cook until the sausage is heated through.
  5. Serve over rice.

chicken noodle soup

  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of flour
  1. Bring stock to the boil.
  2. In a mug, combine the eggs and the flour. If it’s too thick to run off the spoon, add a teaspoon of water.
  3. Slowly pour the batter into the boiling soup and cook until noodles form.

The food in the thermos is meant to replace the sandwiches – it’s not a balanced meal in itself. Remember to include a healthy snack (fruit, vegetable sticks, nuts), water or juice, and something for morning tea, depending on your child’s level of physical activity.

Also, if the food in the thermos is quite starchy (like the pumpkin soup), try to include a bit of protein for morning tea (a hardboiled egg, yoghurt or slices of cheese).

For example, a typical winter’s lunchbox might be:

  • a hardboiled egg for morning tea
  • a plum tomato, a celery stick and half an orange
  • a thermos of pumpkin soup.

On days when your child has sports practice during lunchtime or after-school, their lunchbox could consist of:

  • a small muffin
  • raw baby carrots, cucumber sticks, apple wedges, grapes
  • a thermos with sausage in sauce.

thermos tips

  • A thermos meant for solid food will have a wide mouth, while a thermos for liquids will typically be tall with a narrow mouth. Naturally, the narrow-mouth thermos will keep the food just as hot as the wide-mouthed one, but make sure the thermos is not too tall for a spoon to reach to the bottom.
  • Just before you put hot food in the thermos, fill it with boiling for a few minutes to heat up the thermos, then discard. This will make the food stay hot for longer.
  • Filling the thermos to the brim will also help keep the food hot.
  • If your child’s not excited about having warm food for lunch, you can pack a hot drink in the thermos. Milk doesn’t keep well, but herbal tea, hot water with lemon and honey or even miso soup might be a hit.
  • In warm weather, you can use your lunch thermos to transport cool foods like smoothies, yoghurt and salads.

Image: KeelyMacguire

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