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13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

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13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

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NICHOLA MURPHY

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

September is fast approaching which means parents will be thinking about stocking up on back to school essentials, from new uniforms to stationery and lunch boxes. But what about what goes inside your child’s lunchbox?

Instead of leaving meal prep to the last minute, we’ve rounded up some healthy and very easy recipes that kids will love – many of which you can cook beforehand, so they’re perfect for saving time in the mornings!

Whether you want a more unusual sandwich or homemade chicken nuggets for lunch, snacks for break time or even healthy drinks, keep reading to see our top picks of back to school recipes and ideas…

RELATED: 6 simple and healthy snack ideas for your kids’ lunchboxes

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

LUNCH IDEAS

Sandwich sushi rolls

Who said sandwiches had to be boring? Children’s food guru Annabel Karmel MBE previously wrote a book on the art of Lunchboxes, and we’ve got our eye on her sushi rolls!

Annabel Karmel’s sushi rolls recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 x 80 g tin tuna in sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 and a half tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 drops of Tabasco or to taste
  • 2 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 2 cucumber cut into strips
  • 2 carrots, coarsely grated

METHOD:

1. Using a rolling pin, flatten the bread until about 5 mm / 1/8 in thick.

2. Mix the tuna together with one tablespoon of the mayonnaise and the tomato ketchup

3. Spread the remaining mayonnaise over the bread and then spoon the tuna about a quarter of an inch from the edge of the bread in a line

4. Arrange the cucumber strips on one side and the grated carrot on the other. Roll up from the tuna end and press down to seal. Trim ends to neaten using a sharp knife, then cut into three little rolls

5. You can prepare this the night before, wrap in cling film and cut into three in the morning

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

Laksa

Speaking of the tasty recipe from her cookbook, Dominique said: “There are so many awesome versions of laksa, but my favourite has to be the super-spiced and flavour-packed coconut milk ones. Eaten in Indonesia, Malaysia and Southern Thailand, thin vermicelli noodles are a perfect hidden ingredient as they soak up all the lovely flavour from the broth. You can pile any type of veg you fancy on top of the noodles and these awesome prawn balls bobbing in the broth. They take seconds to make and give some real sustenance to this otherwise light and fragrant dish.”

Dominique Alexander’s prawn laksa recipe

INGREDIENTS:

Makes 1 x 700ml/25fl oz jar

Keeps: 3 days

For the prawn balls:

  • 100g/3½oz raw king prawns (jumbo shrimp)
  • 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • small handful of coriander (cilantro), stalks only

For the broth:

  • Small handful of vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 100g/3½oz any sliced veg, such as cabbage, spinach or broccoli
  • 2cm/¾in piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • ½ red chilli (chile), deseeded if desired
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves (dried is fine)
  • 400ml/14fl oz can coconut milk
  • 300ml/10fl oz/1¼ cups fish stock
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp palm or light brown sugar
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Small handful of coriander (cilantro), leaves only, to garnish

METHOD:

1. Soak the noodles in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes, then drain and set aside.

2. Start with the prawn balls, place the prawns, curry paste and coriander stalks in a food processer and pulse until combined but still quite chunky. Using wet hands, scoop the mixture out and shape into little balls – you should make around eight. Place on a plate, cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and chill in the refrigerator until the broth is ready.

3. Heat the coconut oil in a pan, add the vegetables, ginger, chilli, turmeric and spring onions and fry for 2 minutes. Add the kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, stock, sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce and palm sugar to taste and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. After 5 minutes, add the prawn balls and turn constantly to ensure they are cooked all the way through. Add the soaked noodles and stir through. Add the grated lime zest and juice, then carefully pour the laksa into your jar.

5. Leave to cool, then tear up the coriander leaves and scatter over the top. Reheat over a low heat to ensure you don’t overcook the prawn balls.

Photo: Clare Winfield

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

Healthy chicken nuggets

They may not be the first thing that spring to mind when you think of healthy lunchbox food, but creating your own chicken nuggets from scratch is much healthier than the traditional fried treat. Plus, everyone loves comfort food, especially when the weather turns cold! This cheesy chicken ball recipe from Little Cooks Co, a healthy subscription box recipe kit service for kids, takes just ten minutes to prepare.

Cheesy chicken balls recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 organic chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of grated cheese (or a glug of oil)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp of salt, smoked paprika and Worcester sauce

METHOD:

1. Preheat the oven to 170c (180c if not fan assisted)

2. Pop the onion in a food processor and whizz till fine

3. Add everything else and whizz till fully combined

4. Either use a spoon or your hands to make meatball size balls

5. Place on a baking tray and bake for 20-25mins till they are golden

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13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

Chicken and bulgar wheat pot

Recipe developer and food stylist Dominique Alexander said of her recipe from Jar Food cookbook: “This is my absolute go-to when it comes to quick chicken dinners. The super-easy marinade makes the chicken so lovely and tender – it’s a total winner and I use it for everything, such as stir-fries, soups, salads and, of course, this awesome filling bulgur wheat jar. Bulgur wheat takes on flavour very well, so add any vegetables you particularly like to bulk it out but don’t forget those roasting juices, as they make all the difference.”

Dominique Alexander’s sticky chicken and bulgar wheat recipe

INGREDIENTS:

Makes 1 x 700ml/25fl oz jar

Keeps: 3–4 days

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 chilli (chile), deseeded if desired and finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 75g/2¾oz/scant ½ cup bulgur wheat
  • 250ml/9fl oz/generous 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 courgette (zucchini), diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • Small handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD:

1. Pop the chicken thighs, soy sauce, honey, chilli and garlic in a bowl, cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for as long as you can – overnight is ideal

2. To make the bulgur wheat side, put the bulgur wheat and stock into a pan and bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and cook for 12–15 minutes until the bulgur is soft and cooked through. Drain if there is any excess stock and set aside.

3. In the same pan, heat the olive oil, then add the courgette and onion and gently soften for 2 minutes. Add the bulgur wheat and fold through, adding salt and pepper as you wish. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

4. When the bulgur wheat mixture is cool, mix through the parsley, then place in the bottom of your jar.

5. If you would like to bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4 or preheat the grill (broiler). Grill (broil) the thighs for about 10 minutes, turning once, or bake for 25 minutes, or until the juices run clear. The honey will seem like it’s burning but this caramelisation tastes delicious once they are done so don’t panic. Shred the chicken thighs over the bulgur wheat in the jar and pour in any cooking juices for an added boost of flavour.

Photo: Clare Winfield

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

Bubble and squeak

Need to use up some leftovers? The beauty of bubble and squeak is that you can include just about any vegetables, and the recipe from Little Cooks Co states none of them needs to be peeled. If you’re looking to sneak more healthy foods into your kids’ diet, take a look at how to make it…

Bubble and squeak recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • 400g potatoes
  • 150g peas
  • 150g sweetheart cabbage
  • 40g spinach
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Glug of olive oil

METHOD: 

1. Scrub your potatoes, chop into 1-inch pieces and cook in a saucepan of water for 20 mins until soft. Add the peas for the last minute to soften them

2. While the potatoes are cooking finely chop the onion and garlic and everything else into small pieces

3. Fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes and then add the other vegetables and fry on a low heat for around 15 mins until softened

4. Add the strained potatoes and peas and use your wooden spoon to break the potatoes up until there are no big chunks left. Fry for another 10-15 mins, stirring regularly

5. For the last 5 mins flatten the mixture and let it crisp up in the pan

6. Turn it out onto a plate and allow to cool before cutting into slices

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

One-pot salmon and watercress salad

“This is a super-simple recipe – more of a put-together than anything else!” Dominique explained. “If you are short on time this is perfect as it takes just the time of boiling the potatoes. This recipe can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days and can be easily warmed in the oven or microwave (minus the watercress), so it’s a great one to prep for the week if you fancy something fresh but comforting. The soft-boiled eggs add a wonderful richness, which works very well with the sharpness of the dressing.”

Dominique Alexander’s hot smoked salmon and watercress salad with lemon caper dressing recipe

INGREDIENTS:

Makes 1 x 700ml/25fl oz jar

Keeps: 3-4 days

  • 5–6 baby potatoes, halved
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped
  • Few dill sprigs
  • Grated zest and juice of ½lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½tsp each salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 hot smoked salmon fillet, broken into large flakes
  • ½ bunch of watercress

METHOD:

1. Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 10–12 minutes – test them with a knife and if it goes in cleanly with no resistance, they are done. Remove them with a slotted spoon and gently lower the eggs into the water and set a timer for 6 minutes. As soon as the eggs are done, run them under cold running water so they are easier to peel. Peel them both and set aside.

2. To make the dressing, put the capers, dill, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and mustard into a small jar, pop the lid on and shake well.

3. Start filling your jar with the hot smoked salmon, then add the soft-boiled eggs and potatoes. Drizzle in half the dressing, then add the watercress and the remaining dressing. If you want to heat it up, remove the watercress gently and set aside while the jar is warming. Put it back in and serve.

Photo: Clare Winfield

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13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

Jacket potato

Jacket potatoes are a healthy and filling option. If you’re after a more unusual filling, then look no further than Annabel Karmel’s recipe…

Steamed mackerel, spring onion and crème baked jackets recipe

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 2 pre-oven-backed Jacket potatoes
  • 110g tin of steamed mackerel fillets
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 100g half fat crème fraiche
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic puree
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped dill
  • 1 wedge of lemon to serve
  • Salt & pepper to season

METHOD: 

1. Heat up two pre-baked jacket potatoes in the microwave for 5 minutes

2. Open the tin of mackerel and break up into pieces into a bowl along with the juices from the tin. Add the chopped spring onions and mix well

3. To make the dressing mix the crème fraiche, lemon juice, oil, garlic and dill in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste

4. Combine both the mackerel mixture and the dressing and mix well

5. Once the potatoes are cooked, open them slightly and top with the mackerel and dressing mixture and serve with a side salad and a squeeze of lemon

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

Pancetta and sprouts slaw

“Don’t freak out if you’re a sprouts hater – having them raw is a totally different experience! It’s almost like a slaw in its texture with a lovely crunch and a sweet-sharp dressing. If you have a mandoline, that’s awesome as it lets you get super-thin slices, but if your knife skills are up to it, you can also just chop them very finely instead. The pancetta is, of course, optional but its wonderful smoky flavour pairs with the maple syrup in the dressing really well, so definitely give it a go if you can,” Dominique explained.

Dominique Alexander’s shredded sprouts with pancetta and walnut slaw

INGREDIENTS:

Makes 1 x 700ml/25fl oz jar

Keeps: 4 days (without dressing) or 2 days (with dressing)

  • 150g/5¼oz Brussels sprouts
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 green eating apple
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Small handful of walnut pieces
  • 100g/3½oz smoked pancetta cubes (optional)

For the dressing:

  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove, very finely chopped
  • ½ tsp each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD:

1. Start by making the dressing, add all the ingredients to a small jar, cover with the lid and shake well until everything is combined. Leave at room temperature until the rest of your jar is ready to go

2. Using a mandoline or knife, shred the Brussels sprouts into thin slices. Do the same with the red onion. Set both aside

3. Grate the apple and toss in the lemon juice to ensure it doesn’t go brown, then set aside

4. Dry-fry the walnut pieces in a small frying pan (skillet) until they are nice and toasty, then remove from the pan and dry-fry the pancetta cubes, if using, until crispy

5. Once everything is ready, it’s time to layer up. Place the Brussels sprouts and onion slices into the bottom of your jar, followed by the apple, then the pancetta, if using, and finally, the walnuts. Pour in the dressing, pop the lid on and shake up to ensure everything’s well coated. This one holds up quite well with the dressing on, even overnight but if you’re making a couple of days ahead, keep it off and mix together just before you’re ready to eat

Photo: Clare Winfield

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

Pesto pasta salad

Easy to batch-cook and save for later, this pasta salad recipe from Barilla sounds so tasty that the whole family will want to take it to work and school.

Penne rigate salad with pesto Genovese recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • Penne Rigate
  • ½ jar of Pesto Genovese
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, washed and quartered
  • 80g yellow pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
  • 1tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

1. Boil the Penne Rigate in salted boiling water. Once cooked, strain  and cool in running water

2. Put the pasta on a tray with a little extra virgin olive oil

3. Cut the yellow pepper, celery and spring onion into thin slices, and peel and cut the carrot. Sauté with a little oil

4. Put the Penne Rigate in a bowl, add all the veggies and toss with the Pesto Genovese

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13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

SNACKS

Kids tend to burn a lot of energy at school, so morning and afternoon breaks are a great time for a quick snack. But what healthy recipes and ideas to choose? Take a look…

Joe Wicks’ frozen yoghurt bark recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • Greek yoghurt
  • Honey
  • Lime juice
  • Ber

METHOD: 

Joe Wicks explained: “Mix up Greek yoghurt, honey, squeeze of lime juice in a bowl, spread onto a tray add raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds and pecans. Freeze overnight for the win.”

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

Lemon crunch pots

“If you are anything like me then lemon desserts hold a special place in your heart. The base of these pots is the nuttiest most delicious biscuit (cookie) you have ever had. Drizzled with very good-quality dark (bittersweet) chocolate would be more than enough for me but this coconut cream and lemon concoction on top takes it to another level,” Dominique said.

“They don’t keep very well so it’s best to eat them straight from the oven or reheat them if you have made them a couple of hours ahead to keep the pudding lovely and fluffy.”

Dominique Alexander’s lemon crunch pot recipe

INGREDIENTS:

Makes 4 x 100ml/3½fl oz heatproof jars

Keeps: Eat straightaway

For the base:

· 100g/3½oz/1 cup gluten-free oats

· 100g/3½oz/¾ cup raw almonds, skin on

· ½ tsp sea salt

· 2 tbsp maple syrup

· 65–75g/2¼–2¾oz/scant 1/3– generous 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

For the topping:

· 100g/3½oz/generous ¾ cup cashew nuts

· 200g/7oz block coconut cream, warmed in a bowl of hot water until soft

· 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)

· ½ tsp sea salt

· grated zest and juice of 3 lemons

· 4 tbsp maple syrup, plus extra to taste

METHOD:

1. Soak the cashew nuts for the topping in a bowl of cold water overnight, then drain

2. The next day, preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F/Gas mark 4

3. Blitz the oats, almonds and sea salt together in a food processor or blender until it forms very fine crumbs. Gradually add the maple syrup and melted coconut oil until it starts to come together like a dough. Press this into the bottom of your jars, place on a baking tray and bake in the hot oven for about 15–20 minutes until golden on top

4. Add the soaked cashews to the clean food processor or blender, squeeze in the coconut cream (which should be all soft and melted), the cornflour, sea salt, grated lemon zest and juice and the maple syrup and blend until smooth, thick and creamy. Taste. If it’s a little on the sharp side, add some more maple syrup until you reach the desired sweetness

5. Pour the topping onto the cooked bases in the jars and return to the oven for about 20–25 minutes until just set – they should still have a little wobble in the centre. Devour instantly!

Photo: Clare Winfield

13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

Apple peanut butter bites

Filling and nutritious, banana and peanut butter are sure to go down a treat, and they don’t even need a recipe!

Apple peanut butter bites recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • Peanut butter
  • 1 apple, sliced

METHOD:

Simply slice an apple and top each slice with a smearing of peanut butter. And voila!

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13 healthy and delicious lunchbox recipes that will have kids rushing back to school

DRINKS

Whether you need a morning snack or a way to add extra veggies into their diet, smoothies are a great drink to include in a lunchbox.

Banana smoothie

There are so many smoothie recipes out there, but you can’t really beat classic banana, right?

Jamie Oliver‘s almond and banana smoothie recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 500 ml of almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence, optional
  • 4 ripe passion fruit

METHOD:

1. Peel the banana and place in a blender with the almond milk and almond essence (if using)

2. Halve the passion fruit, then scrape most of the pulp into the blender and blitz to combine

3. Spoon the remaining passion fruit pulp over the top

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