Easy back-to-school recipes for lunchboxes

Homemade muesli bars. Picture: Supplied
Homemade muesli bars. Picture: Supplied

As parents, it's our responsibility to initiate the relationship our children have with food and nutrition. We are their primary example and in the early years, we are in sole charge of the food on their plate.

The environment in which parents are raising their children is one with conflicting messages, with the marketing claims of packaged food products screaming at parents as they browse the aisles of the supermarket. Combined with hectic work schedules, feeding your child can be daunting and stressful.

The idea behind the Healthy Kids Cookbook is to provide parents with simple recipes which are delicious and nutritious for kids and parents alike. All the recipes have been designed and cooked by a nutritionist, and eaten by real kids.

Homemade muesli bars

This homemade muesli bar is perfect for a snack at home, beside the plate of lunch or in a lunchbox. This recipe is high in fibre and protein as well as being nutrient and energy dense, helping to keep your little one going through the day.

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup of puffed rice

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sultanas

100g butter or coconut oil

1/2 cup honey

2 apples grated

Method

1. Heat butter/oil and honey in a saucepan, add grated apple and cook for around 10 minutes stirring it often. When the mixture starts to pull away from the sides when you stir it, it is ready.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl.

3. Pour over the apple mixture and stir to combine.

4. Spread the mixture onto a paper-lined tray and flatten out to about 11/2 to 2cm in thickness.

5. Cover with cling wrap and put it in the fridge to set for three hours or until firm.

6. Once set, cut into 12 squares.

Tip: If you do not want to use butter for lactose or dairy reasons, coconut oil is a good alternative as it is semi-solid at colder temperatures. Other vegetable oils may not set as well in the fridge.

Makes 12.

Frozen banana pops

Frozen banana pops. Picture: Supplied

Frozen banana pops. Picture: Supplied

Although this might seem better for a summer party, it is a great activity for the kids to get involved in. You can also choose better-for-you rolling ingredients to avoid the chaos that surrounds excess sugar and artificial colour consumption.

Ingredients

10 bananas cut in half

20 skewers

1 tub of natural yoghurt

shredded coconut

crushed peanuts

honey

Method

1. Cut the bananas in half and thread them onto a skewer.

2. Place yoghurt, crushed peanuts, shredded coconut and honey in separate bowls.

3. Let the children dip the banana in the yoghurt and other ingredients.

4. Place each banana on a lined baking tray.

5. Freeze the bananas for at least one hour, then serve.

Makes 20.

Chicken nuggets

Chicken nuggets. Picture: Supplied

Chicken nuggets. Picture: Supplied

Chicken nuggets are another favourite in many households for kids to eat. Similarly to the fish fingers, store bought chicken nuggets can be full of ingredients that may or may not represent food, plus a lot of unnecessary sodium. There have been huge improvements in store bought nuggets, but nutritionally you can't beat your own. Chicken is a great source of protein. Choosing breast meat reduces the fat content but dark meat or thigh meat has a lot of flavour as well. The choice is personal.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs

3/4 cup of parmesan cheese

oil spray

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

2. Cut the chicken into 2cm chunks

3. Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan.

4. Dip chicken into the beaten egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture.

5. Lay the chicken nuggets on a lined baking tray, spray with oil spray.

6. Cook in a preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

Serves 4.

Polenta, feta and sundried tomato muffins

Polenta, feta and sundried tomato muffins. Picture: Supplied

Polenta, feta and sundried tomato muffins. Picture: Supplied

A great snack or lunch-box addition, these muffins are a good source of fibre from the polenta and wholemeal flour, plus they're packed with protein and calcium from the cheeses.

Ingredients

1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour

1 cup dry polenta

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup grated parmesan

1 free-range egg

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp reduced-fat feta, crumbled

1/2 cup semi-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Line a muffin tray with paper cases.

3. In a large bowl, combine flour, polenta, baking powder and parmesan.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, milk and olive oil.

5. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon.

6. Fold in feta and semi-sundried tomatoes.

7. Spoon mixture into the paper cases and bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden.

Makes 12.

This story Looking for some lunch box ideas? first appeared on The Canberra Times.