While we are in the middle of sandwich-free lunchbox ideas over on Facebook, we thought it would be helpful to pull together our top tips for a well balanced lunchbox salad.
1. Gain inspiration for your lunchbox salad from the evening meal the night before
There is almost always a component of an evening meal that can be turned into salad for school/work lunch the next day. If it was a pasta night – pasta salad, if it was a roast night – roast vegetable salad etc. Don’t feel that you need to follow recipes to the letter either, particularly when it comes to which vegetables to throw in – whatever you have is perfect! The big things for me though is to always try to keep it nice and colourful!
2. Will you eat a rainbow today?
People are probably sick of hearing me say this but COLOUR, COLOUR, COLOUR!
A salad will ideally include a range of different vegetables in a range of different colours.
Include vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, capsicum (it comes in three colours!), mushrooms, carrot, tomatoes, red onion, beetroot, celery, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower etc. See if you can negotiate with your kids to make sure that there are at least three different colours in their salad.
3. Is there some protein in there?
While a vegetable salad is wonderful, it will not get you or your child through the afternoon. It is important to make sure that you have a good source of protein with the salad too to make sure that you feel full for the afternoon.
Some good protein options include:
4. Don't forget some carbs!
Our body’s favourite source of energy is carbohydrates. It provides the fuel for our children’s brains to learn and for our muscles to play. It’s important for children therefore to have some carbohydrates with each meal of the day.
Some great carbohydrates to accompany a salad include:
5. Last but not least, the dressing.
A salad dressing gives the salad some bonus flavour, otherwise let’s be honest, you’re really just eating a box of vegetables. Salad dressings come in lots of different forms.
For a pasta salad, I usually just add a drizzle of olive oil or perhaps some vinaigrette dressing. For a roast vegetable salad, I would add a tahini/lemon juice dressing. Sometimes even just a squeeze of lemon juice does the trick!
The most important thing with a salad dressing though is generally not to dress it too early. It can make some of the leaf vegetables a bit soggy. Invest in a mini container for the dressing and place it inside the main salad container for adding just before eating.