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Health and nutrition is a major concern for many Indian moms when packing their kids’ lunches. 5 super lunch box ideas!
By Lavanya Donthamshetty
No one, least of all a child, likes to eat the same old boring stuff every day. Whilst it is unarguably good for them, sending a bewildering lunch box with two varieties of rice and a vegetable side-dish AND expecting kids to finish it off doesn’t work. Instead, a lunch box that is made of different parts such as some child-friendly dishes (read: easy to eat one-handed), a slice of cheese and/or a piece of fruit is an easier way to get them to finish their lunch.
A kids’ lunch box that is easy to eat, packed with health and nutrition, not too demanding on a busy mum (or dad) and not fiddly or unwieldy. This is the brief for a child-friendly lunch. So, what can you send for lunch that fits the brief? Here are 5 kids’ lunch box recipes that may be tweaked to form many more menu options.
Fairly at the top of the list comes a wrap. A big wheat chapati, filled with some yummy vegetables and rolled up so the child can eat one-handed. Easy-peasy lunch recipe! For children that like paneer, just make a basic tomato-onion gravy, add some steamed diced mixed vegetables (such as potato, carrots, peas, cauliflower or beans), toss in some paneer and let it all simmer away for five minutes. Add seasoning, place inside a chapati, roll and cut in half. Wrap each portion in aluminum foil to maintain freshness.
Another child-friendly lunch dish is a stuffed idli. My son, who cannot eat using his fingers, loves this! For the filling, you can make a standard potato masala (similar to the one used for masala dosas). To make the idli, ladle about a tablespoonful of idli batter onto a greased idli mould, spoon some masala filling and pour the rest of the batter over it. Steam as usual. Once it is done, turn it on to a plate, smear ghee and maybe some coconut chutney / green chutney onto one side. Doesn’t get simpler, does it?
Pastas are one of my son’s favourite meals. Give it to him every day and he will happily eat it, ‘yucky’ veggies and all. One of the easiest pasta recipes is to cook a portion of fusilli, tossing it with olive oil, roasted garlic and your child’s favourite veggies. Or, make a basic tomato and basil pasta sauce, add a cup of mixed veg – peas, mushroom, carrots, beans – mix with the cooked pasta and garnish with grated cheese.
One of the easiest lunch box ideas of all. With the right choice of bread and a sumptuous filling, a sandwich can make a very nutritious lunch. From a simple buttered slice to one slathered in coriander-mint chutney for that extra oomph, a sandwich can be as easy or complicated as you like. Boiled, diced potatoes, sauteed with chopped onions, tomatoes and fresh peas is a popular filling. Other options include egg-mayo, cheese & tomato or mushroom & cheese.
Call it falafal and my child balks. Flatten it and call it a “Chickpea burger” and it goes down in a heartbeat! Whizz some cooked chickpeas in the mixer, along with some onions, dhania-jeera powder, one clove of garlic, salt and one egg. Cover and transfer to the fridge for 30 minutes. In the meantime, toast a slice of bread, cool it a bit and whizz in a mixer to get fresh bread crumbs. Get the mixture out of the fridge, dip in some beaten egg (or besan, if averse to egg), roll around in the bread crumbs and cook on a tawa with a little ghee. Flatten with the spatula to get your classic burger patty shape. Pack inside a toasted bread roll /pav with some cucumber raita and/or tomato ketchup – job done!
(And don’t worry that it is too much work for a rushed morning – you can make the patties the previous evening and chill them in the fridge. Warm them up in the morning and they will taste just as delicious.)
Go on – share with us your ideas for quick and tasty kiddie lunches!
Mother, writer, foodie, margarita lover, Lavanya is the exception to the rule that women are
Here’s one tip – I usually make dough for chappatis in bulk and store in the fridge. The same dough morphs into an aloo paratha one day (cook a single aloo in the microwave using the baked potato setting and your masala is ready in 5 mins or so), Puris with the same masala one day. I love your ideas for the chickpea :burger”. Will try out and let you know how my kids liked them.
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