As the new school year approaches, you may be wondering how to pack a healthier lunchbox for your child. The formula is pretty simple! Here’s what experts suggest:
- Fill half the lunch box with colourful vegetables or fruits (ideally two or three different types).
- One-quarter with whole grains.
- One quarter with healthy proteins.
- If desired, you can include a small amount of dairy and healthy fats.
The same guidelines can be applied for a child’s dinner plate too. Why is a healthy lunch important? Several reasons. It’s a powerful educational support, providing the fuel your child needs to learn throughout the day. It prevents hunger, improves nutritional health, expands your child’s palette and helps to combat childhood obesity. Initiatives such as the National School Lunch Program in the US have even been set up to help ensure children’s dietary needs are met. There’s a growing awareness of how diet impacts children’s learning.
If you own a Click & Grow indoor herb garden, it’s super easy to grow fresh, homemade food to include in your child’s lunchbox. When it comes to eating healthily, there are certain greens which kids tend to like the taste of more than others. Here are 5 plant pods from our collection that you can start growing this month and enjoy during the new school year:
1. Dwarf Pea
Contrary to popular belief, many kids tend to enjoy peas! Some will even eat frozen peas straight out of a supermarket bag. With Click & Grow you can go one better - fresh peas straight from the smart garden! Peas are a natural source of vitamin C, K, folate and fibre and help to maintain eye, brain and bone health.
How to use:
- Click & Grow peas are delicious raw - perfect for putting in a tupperware container inside your child’s lunchbox.
- You could also get creative and include peas as part of a finger salad with other goodies such as grapes, carrots and small cubes of cheese.
- Pea purée is another easy option, especially for very young children. Measure out your desired amount of peas, add to a pot of water, bring to boil, drain and blend.
Dwarf pea plant pods germinate in just 2 weeks. You can expect your first pea pods to mature approximately 35 days after planting.
2. Sweet Pepper
Kids are often intrigued by sweet peppers - especially as they’re colourful and easy to hold. Our catalogue contains both red sweet peppers and yellow sweet peppers. They’re loaded with good nutrition and are a natural source of vitamins A and C, fiber, folic acid and potassium. Sweet peppers help contribute to a healthy immune system.
How to use:
- Create a red pepper purée - chop some sweet red peppers, place in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover up, cook for up to 7 minutes until tender. Let it cool, then place in a blender and purée until smooth.
- Raw pepper strips with hummus dip.
- Sliced red peppers in a wholemeal sandwich.
Sweet pepper plant pods germinate in 2 weeks. They require a little patience as they ripen within 100 to 120 days from having been planted. The wait, however, is well worth it!
Kale can be used for a variety of fun, child-friendly dishes and is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. It’s a natural source of vitamins A and C and provides iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein, carbohydrates and dietary fiber. Kale is packed with powerful antioxidants such as quercetin and kaempferol. The body uses antioxidants to balance out free radicals and stop them from harming other cells. In addition to this, antioxidants boost the immune system. Our catalogue contains both green kale and red kale for you to experiment with.
How to use:
- Kale smoothie - blend chopped kale, mango chunks and other desired ingredients until creamy and smooth. Add cups of water to make it thinner.
- Kale chips - chop kale into small similar sized pieces, add a light layer of oil, place on a baking sheet, lightly season and cook in the oven until slightly crisp.
- Kale pesto - Pulse torn kale (no stems), salt, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Add almonds and pulse until they are ground to the desired consistency. Add to a lunchbox sandwich.
Kale plant pods germinate in 2 weeks. Within a month you can already begin harvesting the larger, outer leaves.
4. Green Chard
Did you know that roasted chard is a favourite among kids? It actually tastes similar to crunchy chips. Chard is a natural source of vitamins A, B and C. It also provides magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber. Our catalogue contains both green chard and red chard.
How to use:
- Roasted chard - chop chard into small strips and remove ribs, preheat oven to 400ºF. Lay chopped chard out over rimmed baking sheets. Lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for approximately 5 minutes until slightly crisp.
- Cooked chard - Fill 1/3 of a large pot with water and get it boiling. Add chard and cook until tender.
- Puree - chop green chard into small pieces and place in a blender or food processor. Add some water or apple juice for texture. Feel free to stir in a little milk or yoghurt for a creamier texture.
Green chard plant pods germinate in 2 weeks. Within 3 weeks you can already begin harvesting the larger, outer leaves.
5. Mini Tomatoes
Mini tomatoes are a fun, bite-sized fruit option for your child’s lunchbox. They’re packed with fiber and lycopene, a powerful antioxidant with numerous health benefits. Tomatoes are also a rich, natural source of vitamin C which helps repair body tissue. The great thing about mini tomatoes is that they can be served in so many creative ways. Our catalogue contains red mini tomatoes and yellow mini tomatoes.
How to use:
- Mini tomato pasta - Cook pasta according to package instructions and chop some Click & Grow basil. While water is boiling, heat oil in a large skillet (medium heat). Add some garlic and Click & Grow red sweet pepper. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add Click & Grow mini tomatoes and a little salt. Cook and stir for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with basil. If you’re having it for dinner, pack some leftovers in a tupperware container for your child to enjoy at school the next day.
- Tomato soup - Sauté carrots and onion until they’re soft and translucent (approx. 10 minutes). Throw in some garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add Click & Grow mini tomatoes and stock and stir, then let it simmer for 25 minutes. Add some basil and then blend using a stick blender. Put the soup in a thermos for your child to take to school.
- Fairy-tale tomato mushrooms - Chop Click & Grow mini tomatoes in half widthwise; scoop out and discard the pulp. Invert and place on paper towels to drain. Carefully place each tomato half onto the narrow end of an egg. Put very small dots of mayonnaise or yoghurt onto the tomato tops.
Mini tomato plant pods sprout within 2 weeks. They’re easy to grow in your smart garden but do require you to follow a few key tips! Check out our tips for staking, thinning and pollinating mini tomatoes here. By following these simple steps, you can enjoy your mini tomatoes within 90-110 days after planting. As is the case with red sweet peppers, they’ll be well worth the wait!
Need help choosing a Smart Garden? Read our ultimate smart garden guide here
Images (top to bottom): Harvard School of Public Health / harvesting-history.com & @superhealthykids / superhealthykids.com & jamiegeller.com / theseasonedmom.com & healthylittlefoodies.com / downshiftology.com & respectfood.com / eastsmarter.com & healthline.com