Annabel Karmel suggests healthy ways to liven up your child's lunchbox

Less than half the children in this country have school dinners, so it's important that lunchboxes provide a tasty and healthy alternative. When my three children each had to take packed lunches to school, it became a real challenge to come up with something new that would entice them to eat, bring a smile to their faces after a long morning at school and do them some good. Simple touches can make all the difference, like drawing a face on your child's banana with a marker pen, or decorating a sandwich wrapper with a sticker and maybe including a joke on a small piece of paper. If you find that your children are trading food at lunchtime with their classmates, include an extra treat like a small bag of popcorn or multicoloured yoghurt raisins to swap with friends.

Now that summer is here, it's also worth investing in a lunchbox with a built-in icepack to keep food fresh. Alternatively put one of the small, blue plastic ice blocks in the usual Tupper-ware. Children don't like sweaty food any more than adults do.


Sandwiches don't need to be boring. Presentation is very important to children. Here are three quick ways to turn a sandwich into something special.

Novelty sandwiches. Use a variety of cutters to shape sandwiches into animals, people or cars etc. Popular fillings are cream cheese and cucumber, Marmite and shredded lettuce, and egg mayonnaise and salad cress.

Mini pitta pockets. These make a welcome change. Possible fillings are flaked tuna with sweetcorn, chopped celery and mayonnaise; hummus, grated carrot and sliced cucumber; or turkey with shredded Cheddar cheese, chutney, sweet pepper and lettuce.

Double-deckers. Spread two slices of bread with butter or margarine on one side and spread a third slice with butter on both sides. Cover the first slice with your chosen filling, then top with the bread buttered on both sides. Spread this layer with the second filling and finish off with the third slice of bread. This looks particularly good with a combination of brown and white sliced bread. Trim the crusts and cut the sandwiches into three strips. Choose two complementary but contrasting coloured fillings. Possible partners are cream cheese/cucumber, egg mayonnaise/tomato, peanut butter/strawberry jam.


Make small kebabs with chunks of cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sweet pepper and cubes of cheese. These can be accompanied with a dip like cream cheese and chives in a small covered container.


You can put together your own mini pasta salads using chicken, tuna or prawns with a selection of your child's favourite steamed vegetables and a vinaigrette or dressing.


Cut hard-boiled eggs in half and scoop out the yolk. Mash the yolk with your child's favourite filling, for example cream cheese and chives, salmon mousse, or diced cucumber and mayonnaise. Refill egg whites with mixture.


Skewers of chicken satay or yakitori chicken are popular and can be made the day before and kept in the fridge.


A bowl of mixed summer berries. Fruit kebabs are fun for dessert - you can mix together fresh and dried fruits. Muffins, yoghurt or dried fruit bars.


This tasty way to serve vegetables, pictured left, is good served cold. You can add other vegetables like sweetcorn, mushrooms or cooked ham.

Makes 4 portions

4 tablespoons olive oil

6oz/175g potato, cut into cubes

1 onion, finely chopped

12 small red pepper, seeded and chopped

2oz/60g frozen peas

4 large eggs

1 heaped tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a non-stick 20cm (8in) frying pan. Saute the onion and potato for five minutes, add the pepper and cook for three minutes, then add the peas and cook for five minutes. Beat the eggs with the Parmesan, one tablespoon of water and a little salt and pepper and pour this over the vegetables. Cook over a medium heat for about six minutes or until set. Then place the frying pan under a preheated grill and cook for two to three minutes or until the top is golden.


Chicken drumsticks work well in lunchboxes because they are easy for children to hold. Wrap the end of each drumstick with foil or coloured paper secured with sticky tape.

4 drumsticks

2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Score the chicken drumsticks. Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade. Pour the marinade into a plastic food bag, add the drumsticks and rub the sauce into the chicken until well coated. Seal the bag and leave in the fridge for about two hours. Put the drumsticks on a sheet of foil and cook under a pre-heated grill, turning and basting occasionally, for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Alternatively, if you are making a barbecue, these can be cooked the day before and will be ready to put in your child's lunchbox the next day.

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