What a crazy busy week it has been for the mums (and dads) of Ireland who have been dashing around trying to get the kids organised for the big back to school adventure, writes Darina Allen.
For those whose littles dotes are going to school for the very first time, the whole experience is a major jolt for both the parents and child. For those with older children, it’s often a mixture of ‘glad and sorry’.
Going back to the predictable routine of the school term has its advantages but then there’s the challenge of school lunches and the ever growing pressure to come up with healthy wholesome nourishing delicious food that they will actually eat rather than swapping with a classmate for a fizzy drink or bar.
Even more importantly, they want food that’s cool but doesn’t make them appear nerdy.
Unquestionably school lunches have come a long way since a slice of Easy Singles in squishy sliced pan was the norm. I continue to check in with my grandchildren and their friends to find out about current trends and comforting favourites.
Without getting too technical about it, growing children need lots of variety – protein, carbohydrates, calcium, vitamins, minerals and iron. Boys particularly have an enormous appetites. The more biodiversity in their diet, the healthier their gut, flora and the brighter they’ll be.
Lots of research is linking a healthy gut with our mental health and overall well-being.
Try fingers of cheddar, carrot, cucumber, wedges of watermelon, apple, orange or nectarines. Irish pears are in season now, as are plums.
Fruit, particularly chemical free fruit, is expensive I know, but so is a visit to your overworked GP so let’s focus on making sure every bit of food they eat is ‘medicine’. As my mother regularly reminded us, if you don’t put the money and effort into putting pure nourishing food on the table, you’ll give it to the doctor or the chemist.
Many children have become much more adventurous in their eating habits, their tastes are more eclectic and they tend to also enjoy spicy and robustly flavoured food.
Here are just a few ideas to whet their appetites but I’ve also decided to include one lunch box recipe in my column ever week between now and Christmas and I’d love your feedback.
Let’s begin by thinking beyond the standard sliced pan (my views on that are already well known). A little loaf of soda bread, either brown or white, could be mixed by a five year old, poured into a tin and baked but there’s a range of flat breads, tortillas and pittas on the shelves of virtually every shop to use for wraps, burritos, tacos, quesadillas and tostados.
Plus there are rolls and baps of every shape and form. Try to find artisan bread, like Arbutus Bakery
A few ideas.....
Hoagies can be both veggie and non-veggie, Bowl food is all the rage, invest in a bowl with a clip on lid – rice, bean, lentil or noddle bowls are super versatile and can include all the food groups.
Tacos are so hot now – try a different filling for every day of the week. Once you’ve made your first batch, sushi, particularly the cling film sushi, or nori maki rolls are a doddle to make – tasty, nutritious and inexpensive.
A simple egg, mayo and chive or scallion salad is always a favourite and eggs are a powerhouse of nutrients.
So here are a few suggestions to get started. Run them by your children and choose the ones that appeal.
Peanut Butter, Bacon and Banana Burrito
Sweet Potato Wedges
A Little White Soda Bread Loaf You can make white soda bread in the round traditional way or in a loaf tin which is more convenient for slicing or sandwiches
A Rice Bowl with Avocado, Radishes, Spring Onions, toasted Almonds and Flat Parsley
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