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Getting school meals right is always a balancing act. You want to provide a good healthy, balanced meal, you want it to be quick and easy to prepare and you also want to know it will be eaten because you’re not around to make sure.  Dealing with the quick and easy side of things, if you think main course, two sides and a desert you’ve got most of the planning out of the way. Next you just need a selection of stock favourites. Sides can be handfuls of nuts, low fat crisps, vegetable crisps, dips such as humus or tzatziki or fresh raw vegetables such as carrot sticks or slices of cucumber.  For desert, it has to be fruit all the way. Grapes, apples ( a lemon juice rinse will stop them going unattractively brown) and seasonal goodness such as strawberries of blueberries.

Of course, the focus needs to be on the main course and a number of approaches can work. Firstly try to name your mains in a way that makes them appealing to your children.  You’ll be surprised how much of an impact this can have on the desirability of a lunchbox.

1 Try the Crunch Munch – a main that is made up of the crunchiest and freshest vegetables you can find. Don’t use prepared vegetables, they taste horrid (and we actually pay more for them) just slice up so small portions of pepper, carrot, cucumber, tomatoes (why not look out for the unusually coloured ones as well) with a small portion of cheese to make sure you have a protein element, this will go down well every time.

2 How about Muffin Pizzas or Crumpet Pizzas?  Simply toast your muffin or crumpet and then apply a little pizza source with some mild cheese grated on top. Grill for a minute and then leave to cool. Tell me what child is not going to be the envy of the lunch club when the reveal homemade pizza for lunch?

3 Veggie rollups (try not to associate with ciggie roll ups though) are also a quick and easy main. Simply take a tortilla or other thin flat bread and spread over some humus or guacamole (cheating with shop bought does NOT make you a bad parent so go do it) and then add whatever fresh veg you have to hand. Grated carrot, spinach leaves, spring onions. Try to avoid slices of tomatoes as they make the flat bread soggy and this can be a number one switch off for little taste buds. A few drops of dressing such as Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar can also zing up this main course.

4 Dippy Box makes a great change. Forget the main, two sides and a sweet every so often. Go for a great tasting hummus with some healthy crackers (no, not cheese and onion crisps, not even salt and vinegar). Remember to put the crackers in the lunch box separately – we need to avoid soggy at all costs. Next fill the lunchbox with a selection of the freshest, crunchiest veg you can lay your hands on. Don’t forget veg such as cauliflower and broccoli which taste AMAZING.  Raw in a lunchbox may always be a great pre-cursor to cooked at dinner.

5 Sandwich Day always makes a great change. It’s always easy to forget the basics but sometimes there’s nothing quite like a good old butties and you can fill it with a raft of favourites, old and new. Remember to ring the changes to keep the idea of a sandwich lunch attractive and that means changing the bread as well as the fillings. Bread is not always about white sliced, try small rolls for extra lunch time excitement.

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