Hartford House

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Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.


Tomato Soup

Roasted Tomato Soup
(Photo : Jackie Cameron)

"Healthy Lunch Box Ideas"

Jackie Cameron Head Chef

Jackie Cameron
Head Chef

Back to school is an exciting time and I suggest adding to this enthusiasm with healthy, lunch-box ideas. I am childless so I recruited the help of family, friends - and childhood memories, which I like to believe don't go back too far!

A lack of available time is a mother's constant lament but remember to resist the easiest option. The following suggestions are intended to put enjoyment back into eating.

Containers add interest and keep all foodie items separate and fresh. I recommend investing in colourful vessels of varying sizes. And remember food should be stored in a little cool bag. Temperature control preserves nutrients, which means your child will fully benefit from the healthy snacks you provide. I recall un-enticing, hot sandwiches - yuck! Can you imagine all those many micro organisms having a field day? As I and many others before - and after - me live to tell the tale, there must be some truth in the old adage "what doesn't kill makes you stronger".

Children should be encouraged to pack their own lunch boxes. With your guidance they can be involved in the process of planning and shopping. This results in their taking responsibility for their eating habits. Skipping a meal time, as in lunch, because a particular snack isn't enjoyable - and then having to get through an afternoon - often on the sports fields - is not an ideal scenario. With their involvement, parents are assured their children will eat in a more sensible manner and not be starving when arriving home. Remember a lunch box is normally four light meals: the breakfast that your child might have missed because he/she overslept, morning and afternoon tea, and lunch. Hence a variety of food must be packed to ensure a balanced diet. As a basic guideline include dairy, fruit or vegetables, starch and protein - and remember nuts.

Left-over dinner on bread was always one of my favourites because it put new life into yesterday's meal, and the memories that went with it. Think low-GI, whole-wheat, brown or rye bread. Alternatives for bread can be pitas, tortillas, pancakes, flapjacks, bagels, mini pizzas, or bake interesting homemade vegetable bread. Cheese or banana muffins are another option. Traditional homemade oat crunchies create happy childhood memories and energy bars are a sound choice. One of my best friends at school always brought dry cereal, usually fruit loops, in her lunch box. In retrospect a healthier option for Kelly would have been a Tupperware filled with granola or muesli. Unbuttered popcorn, and potato or vegetable crisps are always enjoyed and often forgotten; so are muesli and bran rusks. Rice cakes, and baked potatoes, can be packed with interesting but simple toppings such as crispy bacon, chives and cream cheese. Potato or pasta salads are tasty and healthy, as are pumpkin fritters, potato cakes and corn on the cob.

Lean cold cuts, chicken pieces, homemade hamburger patties, mince balls, boiled eggs, tinned tuna, biltong, smoked fish and baked beans are all nourishing ideas if temperature control is maintained. A snack of fruit yoghurt with honey, nuts and roasted seeds is a real treat. A serving of cottage cheese and/or cheese makes up the recommend diary component. In-season fresh fruit, especially at this time of the year is refreshing and nutritious. Think superfood - blueberries or a selection of fresh, crunchy vegetable sticks. What about a stir fry? This is my kind of lunch box option. And remember tomatoes and avocados. A chunky, lettuce-free, tomato, onion, green bean, basil, avocado and feta salad is appetising and healthy; so are dried fruit rolls, raisins and dates which make an easy fruit snack. Soups or herb frittatas are ideal hunger stoppers.

Another school friend of mine always had a gherkin or pickled onion, or two, for lunch. I remember she had quite a mature palate.

Healthy drinks include homemade milkshake, milk, yogi-sip, energy drinks - and for those chilly mornings include a flask of hot chocolate or cocoa.

Come on mums; take the drag out of lunch boxes. I wish you a healthy, fun-filled 2012.

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Children's Lunchbox