What can be in the lunch box?

As a disclaimer, I am no expert when it comes to food and whatever I share here is the product of my simple research from the meaningful information that I read and also from my own instincts.Secondly  my son has not started his school yet and I am yet to be exposed to that phase of life where I have to worry about what goes into his lunch box. I am sure it is going to be a challenging phase since he will surely be influenced by his peers and might not really appreciate home cooked meals once he sees others happily munching those nuggets. But the best thing that I am doing as of now is to educate him about what is really food and what is not. For example, whenever we pass by McDonalds or KFC, he would jump saying "mma, see McDonalds, its junnnkk". Also when he couldn't figure out that funny looking beard of the old man featured in the KFC logo, I told him it is puke and he got that because he ate KFC. I know you hate reading this, but I can't think of something better to convince my toddler that what they sell is not actually food. I like this quote "if you keep healthy food in your fridge, you will end up eating healthy". So getting your child used to eating fruits and home cooked meal when he is hungry is the first and the foremost step in making him resort to healthy eating habits.

To begin with, try to use all the good fat that is available in your kitchen cabinets while preparing the meals for your family which will naturally give the food that extra taste. We are bombarded with so much information on different types of diet that we often end up being confused and take the wrong decisions influenced by "healthy sunflower oil" tv campaigns.A simple rule of the thumb is to avoid anything that has been newly introduced as food in the last 50-100 years as a result of industrialization. If you are from India like me and at the age group of 25-35, I am sure whatever your parents ate when they were young were totally organic, healthy and wholesome. It was only during our times that 'health drinks' like boost, maltova and artificial foods like 'maggi' noodles were introduced to the mass market and we all grew up eating them, thinking it is healthy. Also, it was our generation that began consuming the broiler or factory raised chicken and chicken eggs, much fleshier and bigger than the normal, free range ones. My grandmother always used to say that they would make chicken for a meal only when unexpected guests come home, using the ones that were grown at the backyard.

Okay, now coming back to the topic, here are the broad guidelines on making your child's lunch box healthier:
  • In a typical day the child should have a serving of fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs or meat, cereals and a portion of good fat from ghee/butter. You must decide which one of these or a combination of these go into his lunch box
  • Avoid sending 'packets' in any form for lunch- be it chips, biscuits, juice, buns, cake or whatever. Avoid them like plague
  • Soaked nuts and dry fruits make the best snacking options for children
  • I don't really like to send juice but if the child insists, use very little or no sugar. 
  • Read, read, read the labels of any product that you buy from the supermarket for your children. For example, when you buy cheese, rennet is one of the main ingredients and it mostly comes from an animal source. We are not sure if it could be halal, so it is better to avoid those brands that say 'animal rennet' in the ingredient list.
  • Avoid anything that has more than 5 ingredients and chemical names that you don't understand. Remember 'yeast extract' is another name given for MSG
  • It is better to send them what they like eating- like fruits. Bananas (not the uniform looking ones from Del Monte, but the Indian varieties which taste much better and like an actual banana) and mandarin oranges are the best options as you don't have to send them peeled. 
  • Avoid apples, peaches and nectarines unless they are organic since they belong to the 'dirty dozen'
  • Make bite sized pieces of dosa/chapati rolls filled with vegetable combinations of mince meat/fish (strictly fresh meat and no frozen/packaged ones!), cheese/paneer or eggs. In other words, make sure to add at least one vegetable to any filling that you make with meat/cheese/paneer or eggs
  • If they are used to eating home cooked breakfast like idli, dosa, poori, kichri send them in interesting shapes and sizes. Use a cookie cutter for best results
  • Green gram, soaked overnight and boiled can be served with jaggery and coconut. They are interesting things to eat as a snack. If your child refuses to, just make small balls and dip them in a batter made of flour or besan and fry them. 
  • Make a pancake from sweet potatoes- boil and mash sweet potatoes, mix them with a little bit of flour, egg, milk and butter to make the batter and spread them on a pan. Cut them into bite sized pieces to make it look good
  • Avoid store bought peanut butter and hazelnut spreads. They are loaded with trans fat and preservatives. Try to make one at home-almond butter is very easy to make, but make sure you soak them overnight before roasting since it has one of the highest concentrations of phytic acid. 
  • Children love deep fried snacks- use a small frying pan with a deep bottom and use little quantities of ghee or oil. Ghee is the best option but if you are using sunflower oil, make sure you use it in small quantity so that you throw it away after one use

I would like to hear from 'experienced' mothers on this topic :)


  1. Bread Pizzas... mini idlis wth veggies in d batter... chappathi rolls/fried rolls wth veggies... home made french fries... my trials for home cooked food in d lunch box...

    1. Wow. I really like that stuffed idli idea. Should try that next time insha Allah. I do make those home made french fries- tastes much better right? :)

  2. Great ideas! We are following a healthier lifestyle but got to ditch the Nutella soon!

    Grace @ Sandier Pastures

  3. Thanks for some good tips, my little one hasn't started school yet either!


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