Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The thought of packed lunches seems to throw even the most organised of us into a state of dispair. The pressure to come up with a varied,interesting and nutritious lunch early in the morning whilst trying to get the kids out to school on time and with all their PE kit and homework can be too much and the temptation to slip into a rut and provide the same dull food 5 times a week can be too easy to avoid. However with a little forethought a bit of planning and some suggestions from our series of guides to packed lunches you should be inspired.

Scientific evidence suggests that there is a link between diet and academic performance with poor diet seen to lead to concentration problems, and a increased likelhood of illnesses such as colds. Children who eat regular healthy meals tend to have more energy, better learning skills and a lower obesity rate. It seems obvious therefore that a healthy nutritious packed lunch is going to benefit your child in all sorts of ways.

We hope that our series of articles will inspire you in the ways of a healthy packed lunch. This first article looks at the basic tips for choosing your lunchbox. Future articles will suggest some quick and healthy recipes perfect for popping in the lunchbox.

Step one: Choose your lunchbox

Step one, but not necessarily an easy one. Lunchboxes have to be roomy enough to hold the right amount of food for your child, robust enough to prevent damage or leaks and cool enough to withstand scrutiny from the peer group.

There are thousands of different designs but my top tips are as follows:

Beware heavily branded lunchboxes - they might look great but when the next fad comes along that once cherished film-tie in lunchbox will be in the bin quicker than a dirty nappy! We bought a plain plastic lunchbox and let the kids go to town with stickers, modelling paints and whatever else they wanted to personalise their lunchbox.

Go PVC free - Current health standards in the US have raised concenrs about some soft lunchboxes that are made from plastics containing lead and PVC, both of which should be avoided in food containers. There are several manufacturers that advertise lead free and pvc free insulated lunchboxes. Check out our Crocodile Creek lunchboxes range by way of example

Insulate if possible - An insulated lunchbox is a great way to ensure that cooked meats, dairy, seafood and salads can be kept cool until lunchtime. Alternatively a mini ice pack or a frozen carton of juice will do the job. Thermos is a big name in insulation and we have a great range!

Go for an easy to clean model - One great advantage of hard plastic lunchboxes over the soft insulated lunchbag is that invariably the former is much easier to clean with fewer nooks and crannies than the latter. Some plastic lunchboxes are even dishwasher safe.

Size matters - make sure that your lunchbox is big enough to hold a drink bottle or flask in addition to fruit and the main meal.

Think seasonal - OK so its not a lunch box but a small thermos flask or food flask is a real boon in winter. Food flasks are generally wide necked so that you can eat hot food such as stews directly from them. A flask of around 350ml capacity is enough for a portion of hot and filling soup that will be a great treat in the middle of winter.

So there you go our six top tips for choosing a lunchbox - my personal indispensible packed lunch equipment consists of a hard plastic lunchbox, a small food flask a reusable drinks bottle.

In future posts I'll start looking at how to plan a nutritionally balanced packed lunch, how to plan ahead so that not everything needs to be done when you're half asleep in the morning! Finally we'll actually start suggesting some recipes.

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