Healthy and simple lunchboxes for pre-schoolers

We are almost at the end of the first school term which probably means your kiddies lunchboxes are lacking inspiration and becoming a bit, well, samey… Enter a hopefully useful lunchbox blog… Below I’ve got some example lunchboxes and a ‘master list’ of healthy and, more importantly, simple lunchbox ingredients to make up a winning lunch!

My little lady (3.5 years) has only recently got into eating sandwiches as we tend to have lots of different bits of finger food instead to keep things interesting, pack in some nutrients and ensure variety. The lunchbox is generally made up of veggies, fruit, something with a little more substance (like oatcakes, homemade tortilla chips or homemade chicken nuggets) and I will often put something a little treaty in there like raisins, muffins or occasionally chocolate, but only a little. She really loves her lunches and they nearly always come back empty which is a good sign!

It’s also not a bad idea to make things into fun shapes once in a while; it can honestly help encourage your pre-schooler to try new things. We like cucumber flowers, cheese hearts and sushi sandwiches.

LUNCHBOX 1 – Salmon and cream cheese sushi sandwiches, carrot, cucumber and yellow pepper sticks, olives, hummus and a tangerine

Lunchbox 2

LUNCHBOX 2 – Homemade chicken nugget, sweet potato mini waffle, red pepper ‘flowers’, cucumber, cheddar cheese, plum tomatoes, kiwi and raisins

Lunchbox 7

LUNCHBOX 3 – Carrots, plum tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumber, tangerine, cheddar cheese, blueberries and homemade nut butter cookies (only include if nuts allowed in school or eating outside of school)

Lunchbox 3

LUNCHBOX 4 – Gluten free oatcakes, carrot sticks, plum tomatoes, sweetcorn, cucumber flowers and hearts, red and yellow pepper, butter beans, paprika roasted chickpeas, cheddar cheese, blueberries and pineapple chunks

Lunchbox 1

LUNCHBOX 5 – Gluten free sausage, cucumber, plum tomatoes, peas, cheese, mini bread sticks, blueberries & kiwi

Lunchbox 4

LUNCHBOX 6 – Homemade tortilla chips, hummus, red pepper, cucumber, beetroot ‘letters’, plum tomatoes, cheddar cheese, raisins and carrot and zucchini (courgette) muffins

Lunchbox 6

Why not try mixing and matching some of the following to make a colourful, healthy lunchbox for your preschooler?

Veggies

  • Carrot sticks
  • Plum tomatoes
  • Sweetcorn
  • Cucumber
  • Red, orange, yellow pepper
  • Black or green olives
  • Cold peas
  • Cold boiled new potatoes
  • Boiled beetroot

Beans and Pulses

  • Butter beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans

You can of course do others but these tend to be the ones I chuck in. I do these roasted or as is from the can. If roasting toss in salt, pepper and olive oil and roast in the oven on 100oC / 200oF for 1 or 2 hours. I also like to add in a little paprika or lemon juice to add to the flavour.

Dips

  • Hummus
  • Guacamole

Fruit

  • Blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Tangerine
  • Grapes (cut lengthways!)
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Kiwi

The substance

  • Oatcakes (we have gluten free)
  • Sandwich sushi rolls – makes sandwiches a bit more interesting and focuses on the filling more so than the bread (just use one slice of bread, flatten it out and roll it up with filling inside). We like to do smoked salmon and cream cheese, cream cheese with boiled beets (blended together) or hummus and avocado.
  • Cold sausages (we use good quality gluten free)
  • Mini bread sticks
  • Homemade tortilla chips (see below)
  • Homemade chicken nuggets (leftover from the night before… see below)
  • Sweet potato mini waffles (see below)
  • Wraps
  • Salmon, quinoa and spinach balls (see https://sproutingyumminess.com/2017/08/11/annabel-karmels-baby-led-weaning-book-a-review/)
  • Salmon and kale burgers (see https://sproutingyumminess.com/2017/07/11/salmon-and-kale-burgers/)

Treats

 

Ingredients for tortilla chips:

  • tortillas (I use wholemeal or gluten free)
  • olive oil
  • Himalayan salt


Method for tortilla chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 160oC / 320oF
  2. Cut the tortillas into triangles
  3. Lay them on a baking tray then brush them with the olive oil and sprinkle over the salt (so it sticks to the olive oil)
  4. Bake for ~8 minutes, allow to cool and serve. These will keep for a day or two so great for the following days lunchbox!

 

Ingredients for the chicken nuggets:

  • 2 lg chicken breast cut into 4 equal pieces
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 2 lg eggs beaten
  • 1.5 cups coconut flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • S&P

Method for the chicken nuggets:

  1. Preheat oven to 180oC / 360oF and brush a baking tray with extra virgin olive oil
  2. Arrange 3 bowls, one with coconut flour, S&P, one with beaten eggs, one with the coconut flakes, paprika, garlic powder, S&P
  3. Coat each chicken piece in the flour, then the egg (shake off excess) then the coconut flake mix and place on the baking tray
  4. Bake the chicken strips for ~15 minutes or until cooked through.
  5. Can be eaten cold the next day

 

Ingredients for the sweet potato waffles:

  • 1 medium sweet potato peeled and chopped into bite sized chunks
  • 2 of eggs
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (can use other milk)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup gluten free flour mix (can use other flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Method for the sweet potato waffles:

  1. Boil sweet pot cubes until soft, drain and mash.
  2. Mix all the wet ingredients together (sweet pots, eggs, vanilla, milk).
  3. Mix dry ingredients together then add to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  4. Drop a heaped tbsp of the mixture into each corner of the waffle maker to make them look like ‘bites’. Follow your waffle instructions to cook.
  5. Can store in fridge for 4 days and toasted before serving (if not in lunchbox)

 

I hope this provides you with some inspiration! Enjoy, Sally x

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2 Fun Preschooler Halloween Activities!

This is normally a food blog but these easy crafts were too cute not to share. My 3.5 year old got totally involved and the house is now beautifully decorated!

1 – SCARY SPIDER PLATES

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What you need

  • plain white paper plates
  • pipe cleaners
  • goggly eyes
  • kid friendly paints
  • kid friendly glue + glue spatula
  • hole punch
  • string

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What you do

I made the spiders by cutting 4 pipe cleaners in half and glueing them to a paper plate in the appropriate place, then I glued another plate on top . I let this dry over night then we got painting the next day!

Just let your little one freestyle the paint work on each plate. After it has dried, glue the goggly eyes on together in different patterns. Pop a hole in the top with a hole punch, thread some string through and hang them up!

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2 – APPLE PRINT PUMPKINS

I don’t know about yours but my little lady loves painting with all sorts of fruit and veg. Today we used apples and potatoes cut in half as stamps. Apples make really good pumpkin shapes.

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What you need

  • A3 paper
  • Apples cut in half
  • Orange paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Green and black felt tips or paint

What you do

To make these pumpkins simply cut an apple in half, dab with a piece of kitchen roll to get rid of the moisture, and dip the apple in some orange paint. Press onto the paper in a random pattern.

Allow the paint to dry then draw on pumpkin faces and stalks with felt tip pens or paint.

I drew on the faces pictured but if your little is keen and capable they can get involved in drawing on the faces too!

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Happy Halloween to you all!

Sally x

Super Healthy (and Simple) Ice Pops!

The weather has been a little questionable in the UK this summer… but it hasn’t stopped us making ice pops! All the recipes below are dairy free and vegan and almost always contain a sneaky veggie like spinach, avocado or beetroot. You honestly can’t tell and we all enjoy them, from the 1 year old to the 30-somethings. All recipes can be served from 6 months without the vanilla essence (although I usually wait until a little later for dexterity reasons).

Ice pop 1

For all the ice pops simply blitz together the ingredients in a high power blender and pour into the moulds. We use Zoku ice pop moulds (www.zokuhome.com) which are super cute and a good size for little hands. You can buy them on Amazon. If you are layering different colours in your moulds allow one layer to set for 20 – 30 minutes in the freezer before pouring over the next layer.

We use coconut yogurt so the ice pops are creamy yet dairy free. In the UK there is a pretty good selection of coconut yogurts but we like The Coconut Collaborative natural yogurt mixed into our ice pops (www.coconutco.co.uk)!

SPINACH AND RASPBERRY

Ice pop 2

Green layer

  • 1 lg banana
  • 1 – 2 cups coconut yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Handful of spinach
  • Splash coconut water

Red layer

  • 1 lg banana
  • 1-2 cups coconut yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Handful of raspberries
  • Splash coconut water

 

PEACH AND AVOCADO

Ice pop 3

  • 3 peaches pealed and cut away from the stone
  • 1/2 a ripe avocado
  • 2 cups coconut yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • Splash of coconut water (making it runny enough to pour into moulds, but not too much to take away the creamy taste)

 

BANANA, BERRIES AND BEETS

Ice pop 5

White layers

  • 1 lg banana
  • 1 cup coconut yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • Splash of coconut water

Red layers

  • 1 lg banana
  • 1 cup coconut yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 handful berries (I used frozen blueberries and strawberries)
  • 1 chopped boiled beet
  • A splash of coconut water if needed

 

BANANA AND CHOCOLATE

Ice pop 4

This one I would wait until at least 9 months due to the cacao powder.

Yellow layer

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • ~3/4 cup coconut yogurt
  • 1/3 cup of coconut water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 ripe avocado

Chocolate layer

  • 1 lg banana
  • ~3/4 cup coconut yogurt
  • 1/3 cup of coconut water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 heaped tbsp cacao powder

 

MANGO, SPINACH & CUCUMBER

Ice pop 6

Yellow layers

  • 1 lg banana
  • 3/4 cup coconut yogurt
  • splash of coconut water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 mango

Green layer

  • 1 lg banana
  • 3/4 cup coconut yogurt
  • splash of coconut water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 large handful spinach
  • 1.5 inches cucumber

 

STRAWBERRY AND BANANA

Ice pop 7

A very simple first starter this one – good from 6 months.

  • 2 lg bananas
  • Handful strawberries
  • 1 – 2 cups coconut yogurt
  • Splash of coconut water

 

Enjoy! Sally x

‘Pinch Pinch’ Cream Cheese Sandwich & Salady Bits

This whole dish is gluten free, lactose free and egg free. I generally would serve salady bits and sandwiches from 9 months but serve earlier if you feel comfortable doing so (chopping things up appropriately).

pinch pinch 1

The name of this dish is inspired by the Peppa Pig episode where Peppa and George pretend to be crabs pinching their fingers and thumb together, walking sideways and shouting ‘pinch pinch’. This is our ‘go to’ impression of a crab.

It’s nice to make lunch into a fun animal or smiley face now and again 👍🏼. This sandwich contains lactose free cream cheese (as I’m lactose intolerant) on gluten free bread. I used a cookie cutter to make the circle and used the cream cheese to glue the other elements to the sandwich or plate. Mollie (3 years old) loves the extra effort put in to make lunch fun, I genuinely think she eats more too as a result! Alfie (16 months) is none the wiser!

The crab is made up of:

  • legs – king prawns
  • arms – red pepper and plum tomatoes
  • eyes – cucumber, black olives and cream cheese
  • mouth – red pepper

Served on @boboandboo bamboo dinnerware which we love!

pinch pinch 2

Annabel Karmel’s Baby-Led Weaning Book – A Review!

I did a mix of puree’s and finger foods with both my children and it seemed to go pretty well, so I’m not a purist but Baby-Led weaning is all the rage these days and I do believe having a host of Baby-Led meals and snacks in your locker can only be a good thing! Also very handy for lunchboxes. Last month Annabel Karmel bought out a book dedicated to the topic and I was grateful to recieve a copy. Before I go into detail, this isn’t a sponsored blog post, it is just my opinion with some recipes from the book included (that I’ve personally trialled) to give you a taster!

AK book

The book gives a brief, easy to follow introduction to what Baby-led weaning is all about, foods to start on, foods to avoid and top tips for introducing finger foods and family meals. It then has seperate sections on Breakfast, Snacks, Vegetables, Pasta, Poultry, Fish, Meat and Sweet Things. Most of the recipes are easy to whip up and family friendly. I would personally serve a lot of them from 9 to 12 months though (rather than the get-go) as many contain added sauces or ingredients that aren’t necessary for very young babies, such as maple syrup, sweet chilli sauce and soy sauce. I personally believe that before 9 months the focus should be on simple whole foods like vegetables, fruits and some animal products and grains.

One of the plus points is that there are a host of dairy free recipes throughout and these are highlighted to make navigation easy for dairy allergy sufferers. I do think the book could go one step further and highlight recipes to cater for a broader range of allergies like egg, wheat and soy. However, you can of course adapt the recipes to suit. In making several of these recipes I left out some ingredients and substituted others to suit my preferences (swapping gluten for gluten free ingredients for example).

The recipes are simple and the book provides good inspiration for toddlers 12 months plus. I do find Annabel Karmel recipes generally hit the spot with my littles. The Salmon, Quinoa and Spinach balls and the Salmon Rissoles for example, went down a treat in our house and I will be making them again. The Pasta section is very useful – what child doesn’t like pasta?? I do perhaps question the usefulness of the Sweet Things section for Baby-Led Weaning specifically as these recipes are certainly 12 months + and only then for special occasions. We made the Beetroot Brownies and while they didn’t disappoint taste wise I would personally reduce the amount of caster sugar (replacing with coconut sugar) in the recipe (for all ages) and would only serve on special occasions! There is an egg and dairy free chocolate cake in there that could be good for a first birthday but I’m yet to try it!

All in all a good introduction to Baby-Led Weaning and a great accompaniment to Annabel Karmels Baby and toddler meal planner book which I found very useful in weaning my first bub.

SALMON RISSOLES (Dairy free, gluten free, egg free)

AK salmon rissoles

I would personally wait until 8 months to serve this but you can serve from the get go if comfortable.

This is one of the dairy free recipes marked in the book, and so easy to make too – just 4 ingredients! The whole family had them with mash potato, greens and pea purée. Served on bobo&boo plates (https://boboandboo.com.au)

Salmon Rissoles

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 2 x 215g tins red salmon, boneless and skinless, drained
  • 4 tbsp dried breadcrumbs, plus extra for coating (I used gluten free)
  • 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 6 spring onions, finely chopped (I used 4 as my kids prefer a milder onion taste)
  • good dollop olive oil

Method:

  1. Flake salmon into a bowl, add breadcrumbs, ketchup and spring onions and stir well.
  2. Shape mixture into approximately 12 rissoles.
  3. Spread a few tbsp breadcrumbs onto a large plate and coat rissoles in breadcrumbs.
  4. Heat oil in a pan and fry the rissoles for a few minutes on each side, until golden and cooked through.

KRISPIE FISH FINGERS (Gluten free)

AK fish fingers

I would serve from 9 months due to chewability. Serve earlier if you feel comfortable.

I adapted the ingredients slightly with this one to suit what I  had in the larder; swapping Rice Krispies for Buckwheat Puffs (hence the more earthy colour) and plain flour for gluten free flour. I also used hake fillets instead of plaice or sole, hake is a meaty fish so great for fish fingers. The recipe was a win… Alfie had seconds!

Served with sweet potato chips, peas, sweet corn and pea purée, on bobo&boo plates. If you want the recipe for this one head over http://www.annabelkarmel.com and search Krispie Fish Fingers.

SALMON, QUINOA AND SPINACH BALLS (Dairy free, gluten free)

AK salmon quinoa balls

I would serve from 10 – 12 months due to the sweet chilli sauce but you can serve earlier if you wish!

I made this dairy free by leaving out the parmesan and gluten free by using gluten free bread crumbs & flour. Otherwise the recipe is as is! This makes a decent batch but they are suitable for freezing. I froze some of ours which came in handy for the following weeks lunches.

Salmon, Quinoa and Spinach Balls

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 75g quinoa
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 85g fresh bread crumbs (I used gluten free)
  • 175g salmon fillet sliced
  • 40g spinach roughly chopped
  • 30g grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 5 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tbsp plain flour (I used gluten free)
  • Dollop olive oil

Method

  1. Cook quinoa in pan of water for 15 minutes. Leave to drain for 10 minutes so most of the water is drained.
  2. Prick sweet potato & bake at 200oC / 400oF for 45 minutes. Once cool, scoop out the sweet potato and discard the skin.
  3. Blitz the quinoa, sweet potato, breadcrumbs, salmon fillet, spinach, cheese, spring onions, fish sauce and sweet chilli sauce until well mixed.
  4. Shape the mixture into 20 balls and lightly coat in flour and fry in olive oil, turning regularly. Serve when golden and cooked through.

CHOCOLATE BEETROOT BROWNIES

AK beetroot brownies

Serve from 12 months.

These were a huge hit with my 3 year old and we had friends staying for the weekend so a perfect little treat for all! Check out the book or http://www.annabelkarmel.com for the recipe.

SALMON AND KALE BURGERS!

Perfect for the BBQ this summer, these easy salmon and kale burgers sneak some super nutrients onto your kids plate! I would serve from 7 months but suitable from the get go if baby led weaning.

Salmon kale burgers

The whole family had these on the BBQ and my little man just loves them! Great for baby led weaning as they are easy to hold and chew (particularly compared with a salmon fillet).

They are also very easy to make, I just chuck it all in a blender. My kiddies aren’t big kale eaters unless it is in things like this, smoothies or ice pops so it’s a good way to get some into their diet. I’m happy in the knowledge that they are getting all the mega benefits from this super dark green veggie even if they aren’t appreciating the kale on its own yet! Kale is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, it is loaded with so many vitamins, minerals, antioxidents and phytonutrients to help our littleones thrive – I love to get it in where I can.

Salmon kale burgers 2

My kids enjoy them served with a selection of boiled and roasted veggies. They aren’t keen on too much mixing so we like to have all the veggies clearly recognisable! I’m happy to go with this if they are… served on our gorgeous Bumkins Baby suction plate in the photo above.

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Salmon and Kale Burgers

  • Servings: 14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients (made about 14 burgers)

  • 6 organic salmon fillets
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • approximately 2 cups of chopped kale
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 1 tsp dried dill

Method

  1. boil the kale for 5 minutes, drain and squeeze out all the excess water
  2. add to a blender along with all the other ingredients and blend until well mixed
  3. form into little patties with your hands
  4. heat some coconut oil in a non-stick frying pan and gently fry on each side for a couple of minutes (can also bake in the oven on 180oC / 360oF for around 10 mins)
  5. serve immediately or eat cold later