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    Fun Lunch Boxes

    You don’t need us to tell you how hard it can be getting ready for the school run – hands up if you’ve had leave the house in an item of clothing that’s more suited to bedtime because your little one managed to lose their book bag overnight?

    To add to the morning faff, you’ve also got to think about keeping the kids’ energy levels topped up. Lunch boxes have got to hit that fine line which balances nutrition, value for money, easy assembly and, perhaps most importantly, something that gets your kids’ seal of approval. Makes you tired just thinking about it, right?

    We’ve put our heads together and created five lunch boxes that are packed full with kid-friendly food fixes. These don’t have to just be for school – you can take them to the park for a mini picnic, or serve them up as home for a special occasion.

    Have you ever found that when kids prepare their own meals they tend to be more inclined to eat it? Why not get them involved; we’ve ranked each box by difficulty, so you know which bits are more suited to little hands, and which ones you might need to lead the way on making.

    1. Chasing Rainbows

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    Difficulty rating – 2/5

    Ingredients (for one lunch box):

    2 mini sweet peppers
    ½ ripe avocado
    1 wholemeal tortilla
    80g Greek yoghurt
    1 satsuma
    1 Babybel-style cheese
    Handful of unsweetened popcorn
    Handful of grapes – red and green
    Small piece of cucumber

    This one’s pretty simple – little ones should be able to manage most of this without needing too much help from mum! This box incorporates lots of fresh food, as well as uncomplicated flavours that kids’ favour.

    Stuffed peppers

    Simply slice two small mini sweet peppers in half and discard any seeds. Put one half aside to be chopped into small pieces and added to the guacamole.

    To make the guacamole, simply slice the avocado in half and scoop out the flesh of one half. Pop this in a bowl, grab a fork and get mashing. Add in the small pieces of pepper and a little twist of salt or black pepper. Fill up the peppers with this mixture.

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    Wholemeal hearts

    We chose hearts, but you can use any cutter shape you want! Place the tortilla on a flat surface and push out your shapes. If you like, you can gently grill them, or simply leave them as they are.

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    Babybel boats

    Peel the Babybel wax wrapper until half the cheese is exposed. Put a small toothpick into the baby bell. With a vegetable peeler, peel slices from the cucumber and thread onto the toothpick to make a sail.

    To make more little fillers, why not create some grape traffic lights? Using a small, blunt skewer, thread on alternating colours and repeat with the skewers.

    We also added a splash of colour to calcium-rich Greek yoghurt by adding segments of a satsuma in a fanned flower shape

    To finish things off, why not fill up a small tub with unsweetened popcorn to give the box a boost of fibre, whole grains and antioxidants.

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    2. Nibble Box

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    Difficulty rating – 4/5

    Ingredients (for one lunchbox):

    A drizzle of honey
    A handful of nuts, chopped
    A handful of dates, chopped
    Cocoa powder
    4 pieces of brown bread
    Cream cheese
    4 slices of ham
    1 cherry tomato, plus more to serve
    2 black olives (pitted)
    A slice of cucumber
    Blueberries

    Lunch box #2 is a little bit more fiddly and requires a fair amount of chopping and whizzing – definitely a job for mums and dads.

    Raw brownie lollipops

    Chop up some nuts and dates and stick them in a food processor along with a spoonful of cocoa powder and a drizzle of honey. Whizz it all up together until smooth.

    Roll the mixture into little balls and dip them in cocoa powder. Push each one onto a lolly stick, then stick them in the fridge for 10 minutes.

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    Sandwich caterpillar

    Take a piece of brown bread and spread it with cream cheese. Put two slices of ham on top, then put a second piece of bread on top to make a sandwich. Make another sandwich in exactly the same way.

    Using a round cutter, cut out as many sandwich circles as you can (5 is perfect). Thread them onto a skewer to make the caterpillar’s body.

    For the head, stick a cherry tomato on one end of the skewer. Using cream cheese, pipe on a smiley face, using little bits of chopped black olive for the eyes. Using a knife, carefully make two slits at the top of the head and push in two little bits of cucumber to make your caterpillar’s tentacles. Stick a black olive on the other end, and you’re done!

    Serve with blueberries and sliced cherry tomatoes.

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    3. Soft ‘n’ Crunchy

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    Difficulty rating – 2/5

    Ingredients (for one lunchbox):

    A few chunks of cheese, such as Cheddar or feta
    A few pieces of ham, Parma ham or salami
    A few black olives (pitted)
    A few chunks of cucumber
    A couple of cherry tomatoes
    1 stick of celery
    Peanut butter
    Dried cranberries
    Two ready-made pancakes
    Nutella
    1 banana
    Strawberries, to serve

    Our third lunch box is super-simple. There’s still some chopping involved, but there’s also plenty of spreading, which we think is the fun bit! The meal on a stick is great for kids who are indecisive or fussy eaters as they can choose a little bit of whatever they like.

    Meal on a stick

    This one’s a no-brainer – just take some cheese, ham, olives, cucumber, cherry tomatoes or whatever else you fancy, and thread onto a skewer. Yum!

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    Banana and Nutella pancake stars

    Lay out one pancake and spread with Nutella. Cut a banana into slices and lay them on top, then top with another pancake. Give it a gentle press to stick it all together.

    Use a star cutter to cut star shapes out of your pancake. Serve with strawberries (and a napkin).

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    Celery and peanut butter boats

    Take your celery, chop it into big pieces and fill with peanut butter. Top with dried cranberries for a sweet, chewy twist.

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    4. Foreign Flavour to Savour

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    Difficulty rating – 2/5

    Ingredients (for one lunchbox):

    1 bowlful of ready-cooked noodles
    1 spoonful of tinned tuna
    1 spoonful of tinned sweetcorn
    A slice or two of red pepper, finely chopped
    A spoonful of spring onion, finely sliced
    A dash of soy sauce
    A dash of sesame oil
    A few slices of cucumber
    Hummus
    3 baby carrots or carrot sticks
    Fruit yoghurt
    Edible star sprinkles
    Apple, cut into slices
    Peanut butter

    This Eastern-inspired lunchbox is packed full of flavours that put bland school dinners to shame. It also has the added benefit of being super-quick to put together – great for manic mornings.

    Noodle salad in minutes

    Stick some ready-cooked noodles in a bowl and add the tuna, sweetcorn, red pepper and spring onion. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and mix it all together.

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    Hummus and crudités

    Using a heart cutter, cut heart shapes out of some cucumber slices. Take a dollop of hummus and stick some baby carrots in – it’ll look like they’re growing from it! Dip and enjoy.

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    Yoghurt with sprinkles

    Take some fruit yoghurt and sprinkle over some edible stars. Easy peasy! Serve with slices of apple stuck together with peanut butter.

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    5. A Trip to the Zoo

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    Difficulty rating – 4/5

    Ingredients (for one lunchbox):

    1 boiled free-range egg, peeled
    4 black olives
    1 small carrot
    1 tbsp houmous or peanut butter
    1 small banana
    5 strawberries
    Small bunch of chives
    1/2 radish
    Assorted dried fruits, cheese and nuts

    While some of the elements of this lunchbox are a little more fiddly, kids will love the chance to choose the treats to fill their pick ‘n’ mix tubs and create funny faces on their rice cakes.

    Penguin egg

    Hard boil a free-range egg and peel away the shell. Grab a blunted tooth pick and push this down through the top of the egg, leaving a little bit of it sticking out of the top, and then add an olive to serve as a head. Cut another olive in half and glue on with a little hummus or mayonnaise to make the arms.

    Cut a carrot into three small triangles – two for the feet and one for the beak. Again, stick these on using hummus or mayonnaise.

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    Fruity snake

    An easy way to help your little ones reach their five-a-day! Slice four strawberries into disks, cutting horizontally, and then halve one strawberry to use as the head. Repeat with this with the banana.

    Now the fun begins! At the top of the skewer, add the halved strawberry, and then thread on the banana and strawberry discs in an alternating pattern. Add two small blobs of yoghurt to create eyes and et voila, you’re done!

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    Rice cake faces

    Take a rice cake and spread with peanut butter (or whatever your favourite spread is!) Finely slice radishes to make the eyes and mouth and then cut an olive in half for the nose and in quarters for the eyes. Top with chives for the hair and serve.

    Why not try making sweet versions to serve as an after-dinner treat?

    To add even more colour and flavour, fill little silicon cases or tubs with nuts, fresh fruit, cheese and dried fruit.

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    A little note on safety…

    If your child’s school doesn’t allow skewers in school or if you don’t have any in the cupboards, why not try plastic drinking straws or (clean) wooden ice-lolly sticks? You could also try using cocktail stirrers, and for the smaller creations, the bottom part of ice-lolly molds.

    Do you have a favourite lunch box filler? Let us know in the comments section below!

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