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After a break over the summer, I’m now back into making packed lunches three mornings a week, and I cannot get my head into it. I’m fighting a losing battle to keep the fridge stocked up.

My go-to formula is a selection of chopped vegetables and fruit, a wholemeal sandwich and a yogurt. If I can get organised, I will boil a couple of eggs in advance for egg mayonnaise, which seems to go down very well, otherwise a ham sandwich it is. I have recently discovered nitrite-free ham, which I find more reassuring. Chickpeas and left-over pasta, homemade scones, the odd falafel have been accepted, but whenever I’ve tried other carbohydrate/protein combinations such as wraps, potato or rice salads etc. the packed lunch box comes home rattling.

I’m getting back into the pattern of weekly online deliveries, with set staples, so I know I’ve always got an array of healthy things to put in, even if the variety might not be so exciting. Keeping a selection of non-perishable items in the cupboard (i.e. packets of raisins, breadsticks, oatcakes), longer shelf-life items in the fridge (i.e. eggs, cheeses) and a supply of bread in the freezer helps in emergencies.

It’s amazing how powerful packaging is. Have you noticed how a little box of raisins is so much more appealing to a three year old than offering a few raisins in a bowl; a bag of bread sticks more interesting than a few selected from a bigger packet; a squeezy yogurt, much more fun than a standard pot; and an individually packed cheese more delicious than a piece cut from a big slab? I am very conscious of the impact all this excess packaging is having on the environment, so where possible I try to avoid unnecessary plastic packets, but sometimes it just becomes too much for my brain to process, and priority goes towards providing something healthy I know she will eat.

With children it’s important to consider the balance of nutrition over the course of the day and week to check that they’re getting all the key food groups, so if they end up leaving the protein provided at lunch time, don’t worry, just try to ensure they get a good helping for tea and try something different the next day. Simplicity seems to be the key as to whether my daughter will accept whatever is offered, so why do I beat myself up worrying that I should be providing a complicated meal every lunch time?! She’s getting all the key food groups, so I should chill out.

Attending a small nursery there aren’t the facilities to provide cooked lunches and so the parents and carers are required to provide a packed lunch for their child. On the plus side, it means that I can control what my daughter is offered, ensuring she is given healthy options and I can also see at the end of the day what has been eaten and what is left behind. However, it means at a time when I’m trying to think about what to give my children for breakfast, I’m scrabbling around in the fridge trying to pull together something for lunch.

I can’t help but look forward to the day when both children are having school lunches and dealing with all the joys that entails!

rachel

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