5 lunchboxes for the week

Posted on 12 December 2016

Using popular staples like burgers and muffins, we’ve put together lunchboxes for five days to help you stay healthy at work and keep your little foodies at home healthy too.

Picky eaters are catered for too, as these meals are not made exclusively from health foods, but can easily be adapted to give you more or less of a certain food type or ingredient.

Healthy lunchbox recipe tips

– Invest in lunchboxes with compartments. They make it easier to pack varied and appetising combinations.

– Save time and effort by cooking an extra portion or two and use it in different ways. For example, you can use cooked chicken breasts in three ways: sliced for salads or chopped for muffins.

Monday – Burger 

If you have a young foodie at home, pack the separate food items in a lunchbox with compartments so they can put it together themselves. Coat ½ cup of shredded cabbage and carrot with a mix of ½ cup of buttermilk or plain yoghurt, 1 tbsp mayonnaise and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Slice and butter a roll. Pack with home-made fish fingers (recipe alongside) and a crunchy apple.

Home-made fish fingers (baked, not fried)

Slice fresh salmon (or hake) to the size of fish fingers and dust with seasoned flour. Dip in lightly beaten egg and roll in finely crushed breakfast cereal. Preheat the oven to 180°C and bake for 15 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Leave to cool.

Brain food

Salmon isn’t cheap but it’s brilliant brain food: rich in omega-3 fatty acids, good-quality protein, vitamins and minerals.

– Colourful and crunchy, an apple adds fibre, vitamins and energy.

– Baked fish fingers made with fresh fish, using salmon instead of hake. But if you’re pressed for time, ready-made ones will do!

– A white roll caters for picky eaters, but a seed roll or wholewheat wrap will keep them full for longer.

– Cabbage, best eaten raw as seen here, is in the same category of vegetables as broccoli and cauliflower.

Tuesday – Salad

Use a simple salad base on which to serve a protein of your choice. Combine ½ cup of shredded lettuce, ½ cup of shredded cabbage, ½ green pepper (finely sliced), 2 mini cucumbers (finely sliced) and a small handful of finely chopped fresh herbs (we used coriander and dill). We topped ours with a cooked chicken breast cut into slices. Add an optional dressing and for afternoon energy, pack a fruit bar or make your own date bars. Find recipes for both below.

Dressing

Mix 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp mustard, 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice and 2 tbsp olive oil. Use white wine vinegar if you don’t have fresh lemons.

Date & Coconut bars

Grease and line a brownie pan (25 x 16cm). To make 12-16 bars, finely chop 150g fresh, pitted dates in a food processor until sticky. In a bowl, mix ½ cup of peanut butter, ½ cup of honey, 1 tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp mixed spice and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the dates, ½ cup of desiccated coconut, 1 cup chopped almonds, ¼ cup pumpkin seeds and ½ cup chopped cranberries. Mix well to combine, then press into the pan. Bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Leave to cool, then cut into bars and wrap in wax paper before packing.

– Add nutrition and texture to this basic green salad with nuts, seeds, cranberries or goji berries, or even sliced fresh strawberries, depending on what your child loves.

– Dates and honey are high in natural sugar. Reduce the sugar content by using sugar-free peanut butter or almond nut butter.

– Protein aids concentration and does not lead to drowsiness. It is a component of every cell in the body and a building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.

WEDNESDAY – Muffins

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix 2 cups cooked macaroni with 1 cup shredded leftover chicken. Add 1½ cups grated cheese, 1 tbsp chopped onion or spring onion and a handful of finely chopped fresh herbs (basil or parsley works well). Lightly beat 2 eggs with 1 tbsp milk, pour over the pasta mixture and stir well to combine. Spoon into a greased muffin tin and bake at 180°C for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Leave to cool before packing.

– This is a great way of using leftover meat, pasta and vegetables.

– Use whatever greens or fresh and crunchy veggies you have in the fridge.

Thursday – Wraps

There’s no end to the combinations you can put in a wrap. Ours contains beef and salad. Arrange the salad in the centre of the wrap (we used ½ cup of shredded lettuce, ½ carrot and 1 mini cucumber, both julienned, 1 chopped spring onion and a sliced avo). Top with 50g cooked and sliced beef or steak, tuck in the sides and roll up firmly. Add a pair of chopsticks for a bit of fun. Seed crackers provide energy for extra-curricular activities and you can easily make your own.

Honey-seed crackers

Grease and line a baking tray. Mix about a cup of seeds and nuts (we used sunflower seeds, linseed, macadamias and almonds) and scatter in the baking tray. Microwave ½ cup of honey for a few seconds until runny. Stir through the nuts to coat. Place under a hot grill for 8-10 minutes, taking care not to let the honey burn. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Break into piecess and wrap in wax paper before packing.

– Substitute the beef with feta or halloumi if your child isn’t keen on meat. Or use chicken as an alternative to red meat.

– Honey-seed crackers pack a powerful nutritional punch. They’re quick and easy to make and you can use different combinations of seeds and nuts.

Friday – Flapjacks

Mix 140g self-raising flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup of sugar, 375ml milk and 1 egg to form a smooth batter. Make large flapjacks and leave to cool. Spread 2 of them with peanut butter or almond butter. Top one with a banana sliced lengthways, drizzle with honey and cover with another flapjack. Wrap your flapjack ‘sandwich’ in wax paper to keep the banana from turning brown. Pack with a few rashers of bacon or a soft-boiled egg for added protein.

– Substitute white flour with wholewheat flour (low GI) or coconut flour (wheat free, high in fibre, protein and healthy fats).

– Use ready-made pancake or flapjack mix to save time. There are also gluten-free varieties available nowadays.

  • Almond butter contains more vitamin E and iron than regular peanut butter.

Lunchboxes to take to work

Don’t forget to make something healthy and nutritious for yourself. We’ve packed two lunchboxes for you to take to work – don’t settle for leftovers from the school ones!

Easy summer salad

Combine a handful of rocket and ½ cup of shaved fennel bulb, top with a cooked chicken breast cut into slices and add ½ cup of cubed watermelon. Serve with crackers and a feta dip.

Feta dip

In a food processor, mix ½ cup of tinned butterbeans (drained), ¼ cup of feta, ½ cup of plain cream cheese, 3 mint leaves, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a dash of olive oil. Spoon into a small tub or takeaway container and serve with crackers, rice cakes, rye bread or wedges of wholewheat pita bread.

– Fennel contains plenty of fibre and is a good source of potassium, folate and vitamins B6 and C.

– Try spanspek, mango or pineapple instead of watermelon. Add blueberries for their high nutritional value – antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and more (they’re called a superfood for good reason!).

– Use the basic ingredients of this simple salad – leaves or greens, protein, fresh fruit or veg – to make your own variations.

Chicken kebabs

Cook and cube a chicken breast, then thread onto wooden skewers. Mix 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tbsp honey and 1 tsp fresh grated ginger and coat the chicken kebabs. Leave to marinate for at least two hours, preferably overnight. Grill for 10 minutes or until sticky and cooked through. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and set aside to cool.

Green couscous 

In a food processor, pulse 1 cup of cauliflower florets, 1/2 cup of broccoli florets and a handful of spinach or baby spinach leaves. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sauté the couscous until just cooked through. Season to taste and leave to cool before packing in your lunchbox and topping with the kebabs.

– This is the most labour-intensive and time-consuming lunchbox but also the most delicious!

– Add a handful of baby spinach for extra crunch.

– Pack a wedge of fresh lemon to squeeze over just before eating.

Add to your grocery list

These are the main ingredients you’ll need on your grocery list to prepare the lunchboxes on the preceding pages. Below each we’ve added a note on its nutritional value to help you see why it’s worthwhile including.

The meaty stuff

Eggs – High-quality protein, vitamins B2, B12 and D, phosphorus, riboflavin and more.

Chicken breasts – High in protein, low in fat. Remember to prepare it grilled or poached and without the skin.

Red meat – Large amounts of many of the B vitamins, iron, zinc and more.

Salmon – Vitamins B6, B12 and D, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, phosphorus, choline, pantothenic acid, biotin, potassium and more.

Cheese – Calcium, protein, phosphorus, zinc, vitamins A and B12 and more.

The fresh stuff

Green peppers – Fibre, vitamins C and E and antioxidants (red peppers contain even more).

Apples – Lots of dietary fibre (but leave the skin on), vitamin C and more. Beware of high sugar content, though.

Cauliflower – Protein, thiamin, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium, dietary fibre, vitamins C, K, B6, folate, manganese and more.

Cabbage – A very good source of fibre, vitamins B6, C, K, folate and manganese, also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and more.

Bananas, watermelon (seasonal fruit) – Rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Choose seasonal fruits for year-round variety.

The tasty stuff

Almond butter – Multiple times the amount of magnesium, iron, vitamin E, calcium and riboflavin than in peanut butter.

Soy sauce – Good source of the amino acid tryptophan and vitamin B3 (niacin), but choose the low-sodium variety.

Ginger – A powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Dates – B vitamins, vitamins A, E and K, iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous, copper and more.

Butter beans – Folate, phosphorus, protein, potassium, vitamins B1 and B6, iron, magnesium and more.

Seeds, nuts and berries – Protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Make your own seed mix for greater variety.

  •  Recipes and styling Brita du Plessis; Photographs Jan Ras

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