Back to school: Smart lunchbox solutions for busy mornings

Representative image: iStock/subodhsathe

Another round of school reopening after the two-month summer vacation is here. With the parents and their children gearing up to usher in a new academic year, one thing that haunts every parent’s mind is how to pack a nutrition-rich holistic lunch for school-going children. For some parents, it is indeed a tall order to make children eat foods that are storehouses of nutrients. And when the school reopens, there will be a marked dip in the intake of healthy food. As the busy schedule in the mornings and evenings forces school-going children to give scant regard to having rich food, the lunch, which is usually packed from home, should provide most of the nutrients they need. Let’s take a lowdown on what should be part and parcel of a school-going child’s lunchbox.

Preschoolers (3-5 years old)

  • Mini idlis with veggies: Bite-sized idlis with finely chopped vegetables mixed into the batter.
  • Chapathi rolls: Chappathis or parathas stuffed with mashed and spiced vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and peas, rolled up for easy eating.
  • Fruit salad: A mix of seasonal fruits like banana, apple, grapes, and pomegranate seeds.
  • Whole wheat biscuits: Homemade or store-bought, made from whole wheat flour.
Try these meal plans to make healthy tiffin boxes
Tiffin box. Photo: Shutterstock/Indian Food Images

Primary school children (6-10 years old)

  • Vegetable upma: Made with semolina (rava) and loaded with vegetables like carrots, peas, and beans.
  • Chapathi wraps: Whole wheat chapathis rolled with fillings like paneer bhurji, scrambled eggs, or mixed vegetables.
  • Rice varieties: Lemon rice or vegetable pulao with a side of cucumber slices or carrot sticks.
  • Dhokla: Steamed and spongy, made from besan (gram flour), served with a small side of green chutney.
  • Mixed nuts and dry fruits: A small portion of almonds, walnuts, raisins, and dried apricots.

Middle school children (11-14 years old)

  • Sandwiches: Whole grain bread with fillings like boiled egg slices, cucumber, and tomato, or hummus and grated carrot.
  • Stuffed parathas: Parathas stuffed with paneer, potato, or mixed vegetables, served with a side of curd or raita.
  • Quinoa salad: Cooked quinoa mixed with chopped veggies, boiled chickpeas, and a light lemon dressing.
  • Sprout salad: A mix of sprouted moong beans, finely chopped tomatoes, onions, and coriander with a dash of lemon juice.
  • Homemade energy bars: Made with oats, nuts, seeds, and a natural sweetener like honey or dates.
Chapathi - butter roll is both nutritious and tasty for kids to eat at school. Photo: stockcreations/Shutterstock

High school children (15-18 years old)

  • Rice and curries: Rice packed with curries, stir fries, salads and pickles.
  • Multigrain rotis with sabzi: Rotis made from a mix of flours like wheat, ragi, and jowar, served with a vegetable curry.
  • Pasta salad: Whole wheat pasta tossed with assorted vegetables, olives, and a light olive oil dressing.
  • Chicken or paneer tikka: Grilled pieces of chicken or paneer, marinated in yogurt and spices, with a side of mint chutney.

General tips

Hydration: Include a bottle of water or a small container of buttermilk, coconut water, or fresh fruit juice.

Portion control: Ensure portions are appropriate for the child's age and appetite.

Variety and balance: Mix and match different food groups to keep the tiffin box interesting and nutritionally balanced.

Presentation: Use colourful and fun containers to make the food more appealing to children.

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