With a couple of weeks left of the summer holidays, in the back of many parents minds is the inevitable return to trying to come up with healthy and appealing lunch boxes for the kids. Things that they will actually eat and not just chuck in the bin first chance they get. I recently spoke with Beau Coffron aka Lunchbox Dad. Beau is currently in Sydney working with Sunraysia on their Lunchbox Love campaign for their range of organic juices, and providing parents with tips on how to get creative with school lunch boxes for the kids. While he has turned the humble lunch box into works of art, it's surprising how easy it is and that his relaxed approach doesn't mean you need to try and come up with a masterpiece everyday.
I assume you must have a background as a chef or artist?
Not at all. No art, no chef background, unless you count the one art class I did in 4th grade. I have three kids aged 9, 5 and a 2 year old. I was looking for a way to connect with my eldest daughter when she first started in kindergarten. I work full time, but wanted her to know that I was thinking of her so I made her a special Hello Kitty themed lunchbox for her first day and after that it became a weekly thing that I did. After doing this for a while I though why not start a blog and maybe provide some inspiration for other parents.
Do you think making lunch boxes fun, encourages kids to eat their food and choose healthier options?
We have a lot of fun with it in our family which is why I hope to encourage other parents to give it a try. Its brought us closer together and its one way of letting them know I love them. My daughter has tried things that she wouldn’t have otherwise tried because I’ve made it fun for her and once she has tried it and found she likes it she will eat that food in just a regular lunchbox. It’s a great way to get kids to try a variety of foods. I don’t have time to do this everyday, I have a full time job, a wife and three kids, and do all the stuff other parents need to do, but we make the effort to prepare a special lunchbox on a Sunday night and then just regular ones for the rest of the week.
Where do you get inspiration?
I pay attention to what they are reading, watching on tv and the different things they are into, which can change on a weekly basis sometimes. Most of the ideas are straight from my kids, there is always something new that they are into. One week the lunchbox might be more geared towards my 5 year old son, and the other towards my daughter. Sometimes I get requests from people through the blog. Parents can head to the Sunraysia Facebook page to get inspiration for lunch boxes ad to use the lunchbox notes which are ready to print straight off. These are just nice messages for the kids to let them know you are thinking of them or with little bits of trivia that they will find interesting.
What do their friends think?
They have had a positive response from friends and teachers and parents of their friends. I made my daughter a Frozen lunch box and when she opened it in her school cafeteria all her friends started singing Let It Go.
Is there a lot of planning involved?
There is a little bit of planning but it can often be a spur of the moment thing. I use regular ingredients that anyone can get from the supermarket and try to use up leftovers where I can. I don’t really use too many speciality foods that people have to go and buy.
Do you have any tips for us?
My kids don’t have access to refrigerators at school. The Sunraysia 100% natural and Organic juice pouch range can be frozen and included in the lunchbox to keep things cool as well as nice cold drink which is healthy for them. They come in a durable 200ml pouch which is great because it can be moulded to fit into any lunchbox.
My son is 5 and he is a much fussier eater than my older daughter. We like to give him a couple of choices. Say a choice between grapes or apples for a fruit option or a choice of two different sandwich toppings. We make him part of the process so he is more likely to eat it. We stick to simple foods for him where as my daughter will try things that are little more different. Kids are all different.
Sanraysia’s Lunchbox Love campaign is about making lunch boxes assembly simple, easy and healthy for Australian parents, and bringing the love and joy back into the process. To find out more and to print the Lunchbox Love Notes head to Sunraysia's Facebook page.
The Sunraysia Organic Puch Range comes in seven flavours: Apple, Orange, Apple & Blackcurrent, Apple & Mango, Tropical, Apple Guava and Fruits of the Forest.
Here are two lunchboxes ideas from Lunchbox Dad to get your started.
Smiley Face Lunch on a Stick
- Make sure kabob sticks fit into lunchbox. If they don’t break off the end so it will. Slide cheese, meat, egg, and another piece of cheese, in that order, onto kabob stick. Repeat with second stick. Lay both sticks vertically in main compartment of lunchbox.
- Cut two circles from roasted seaweed. Place on top of eggs to make the eyes.
- Spread cream cheese on celery and place horizontally along the bottom of lunchbox. Top celery with snap pea. Place celery stick on top of half a slice of bread.
- Put grape tomato above celery and between eggs to make a nose.
- Cut carrot sticks into slices. Alternate sliding raspberries and carrot slices onto toothpick. Repeat with two more toothpicks. Place in side container.
- In second side container, put pretzel sticks.
- Make sure and include a Sunraysia organic juice pouch to drink.
Under the Sea Lunch
- Use fish shaped cookie cutter on two slices of bread. Place sandwich filling on top of one piece and place second piece of bread on top. Cut small circle from Mozzarella cheese. Put toothpick in blueberry, then through circle of cheese, and through the top of sandwich. This makes the fish's eye.
- Drop blueberries in the bottom half of main dish and arrange apple slices in the top half as shown. Rub apple slices with lemon wedge to help prevent browning. Place fish sandwich on top of the blueberries.
- Cut cheese into starfish shapes. Using a vegetable cutter makes this a snap! Place in side dish.
- In second side dish put rice or quinoa. Slice three snap peas in half. Place them in the rice in position to be flippers and a head for a turtle as shown. Place a floret of broccoli on top for the shell.
- Remember to also put in a Sunraysia organic juice pouch to drink.
5 tips for creating lunchboxes:
- Find a good reusable bento style lunchbox. These can sometimes last for years. Although they might be a little bit more expensive to start, they will pay off over time.
- To make fun lunches, start simple with cookie cutters on bread. These can make fun shaped sandwiches in a snap!
- Use plastic silverware when needed and wash and reuse it. If your child loses the silverware, it won’t cost much to replace it.
- Prep as much as possible at the beginning of the week. Many fruits and vegetables can be cut up a few days in advance and then easily put in a child’s lunch when needed.
- Give your child two to or three choices when it comes to healthy lunch ingredients. They will then feel like they are part of the process.