To help tackle the hustle and bustle of back to school, George Georgievski, aka the School Lunchbox Dad, is here to save the day (and the morning!). Accidentally becoming instagram royalty and a best-selling author, George has been on a mission to rectify the mundane school lunch box and turn it into a (healthy) picture-perfect creation.
Read on for some juicy time-saving ‘dad hacks’ & recipes for those busy parents returning to lunch box duties.
1. Hi George! As the king of school lunch boxes, can you tell us what the ideal balanced school lunch box looks like?
A good balanced school lunchbox is all about keeping it simple. My simple rules that I follow are;
- Always incorporate the number five. 2 fruits and 3 veggies are the key to any school lunchbox. For example, strawberries and sliced apples together with some cherry tomatoes, mini cucumbers and carrot sticks is all you need to ensure our little peeps get the vitamins and nutrition they need to get through the school day.
- I always add dairy, protein and grains in a school lunchbox. It could be as simple as shredded chicken or cheese in a wholegrain high-fibre wrap.
- I always include fun food in the Yumbox, something that is related to parties or fun. For example, low salt popcorn is fun to eat and contains good nutrients. Low salt baked pretzels or even veggie chips.
2. Let’s talk sandwiches. There are a lot of rumours around whether or not sandwiches are actually a healthy lunch option for our kids. Can you help us debunk this mystery?
Great question, sandwiches (and bread in particular) have changed a lot recently. I always use low GI high-fibre bread from the bakery for my girl’s, but it all comes down to the balanced lunchbox theory. A sandwich with healthier bread (wholemeal, high-fibre, grain etc) and nutritious fillings (butter, avocado, cheese, protein, lettuce, tomatoes etc) are perfectly awesome to have in a school lunch box. If we were giving our little humans white bread, nutella and jam sandwiches everyday, I would be concerned.
3. For those playing at home, is the classic Vegemite sandwich actually as good for us as it tastes?
I’m a huge Vegemite fan. I am lucky enough to have some friends that work at Vegemite and here are some proven health facts:
- Apart from being an excellent source of B1, B2, B3 and B9, the reduced salt version even contains vitamins B6 and B12 which is great for vegans that might lack B12 in their diet.
- If you dig a little deeper you will find that these Vitamins support brain health and can reduce fatigue, stress and heart disease.
I think Vegemite is as good as it tastes, definitely an acquired taste but you just can’t beat a good old Vegemite and cheese sandwich.
4. Do you have any advice for parents who may be struggling to get their kids to eat their fruit and veggies?
My advice comes directly from my experience. A lot of people ask me this exact question so here is my advice.
- Firstly, don’t wait for school to start to give your kids fruit and veggies, it should be introduced to their diet way before they commence school. Start them young, let them see you eating carrots or celery. The old saying “monkey see monkey do” is actually true, as a parent or carer you also need to be eating the foods that we want our kids to be eating.
- There are many “mini” veggies out there these days, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots to name a few. If they’re small and cute looking, they’ll be enticed as the novelty of eating a mini cucumber could be attractive for them.
- Always having veggies on the dinner plate will make veggies in their lunchbox less daunting. Veggies don’t always need to be cooked, a few cherry tomatoes and a handful of lightly blanched sugar snap peas are most likely to be eaten as they’re bite sized and not seen as a massive task for them to eat.
- I actually took my girls to the supermarket and green grocer from a young age. Asking them to choose their own apples and for them to hand pick the carrots and cucumbers gets them directly involved in the whole process. Another way to get them to respect fresh produce, try planting a few carrot or tomato plants and teach them how to nurture and harvest it.
5. Mornings are busy enough as it is! Can you give us your top 3 time-saving hacks for busy parents returning to lunch box duties?
Batch cooking is KING! I like to make pizza scrolls and freeze them, they last for 2 months in the freezer and are a great go-to when you run out of time. Chopping the fruit and veggies and storing them in airtight containers in the fridge saves many minutes in the mornings. The idea is to be prepared the night before so all you’re doing is assembling in the morning rather than creating.
Leftovers RULE! I use a thermos that keeps food warm up until lunchtime. Sometimes I deliberately make too much spaghetti bolognaise so I have lunch sorted for the next day. Other awesome leftover meals that are great for school lunches are roast chicken (can be eaten cold), pizza (every kid loves pizza) and even fried rice.
Planning saves TIME! A simple diary or fridge magnet calendar is ideal. Asking your kids (if they’re old enough) to select what they’d like Monday to Friday not only takes away your guessing time but also gives them a little ownership. Getting them involved and planning will take away the following responses, “whatever”, “I don’t care”, “no’, and “yuck”. Trust me on this one, it’s well worth a shot.
6. If you had to pick, what would be your favourite quick & easy healthy recipe to create as we head back to school?
I love my D.I.Y Taco Kit. It has heaps of fresh veggies and is quick to assemble. The great thing is I get to use roast chicken leftovers and it always comes back from school empty. Check out just how colourful and delicious it looks. Tuesday School Tacos are a winner in my family.