Today’s post is another in my ‘lunch box ideas’ mini-series, in which I am sharing food ideas to cover each of the five food groups that I use when packing lunches (you can read more about how I try to create balanced meals for Small Child’s lunches here). The food groups that I try to include in every lunch, based on the UK’s Eatwell Plate recommendations are as follows: starchy foods (carbohydrates), vegetables, fruit, dairy and non-dairy protein. I hope that when the series is complete, you will have a whole range of ideas to mix and match together, so that you can easily pack varied and interesting lunches to last the whole year through!
Last week I shared ideas for different sources of protein, in today’s post I am exploring fruit, so will share with you 12 different ideas for fruits that you can pack in your lunch box. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, just a good place to start if you’re looking for some fresh ideas. I should probably also note that I am not a nutritionist or dietician - these ideas are based purely on my personal knowledge and research, and my own experience in packing lunches for my family.
1. Apricots – Fresh apricots are wonderful when they are in season - serve whole, or stoned and halved or sliced. For the rest of the year dried apricots also make a great lunch box food – they’re really handy to have in the cupboard for those days when you’ve run out of fresh fruit. Serve whole or chopped into little pieces and mixed with other dried fruits.
2. Grapes – We are big fans of grapes in this house! We alternate between green and red, and almost always have some grapes in the fridge. Serve as they come, or skewer on long food picks to make fruity kebabs. Grapes also freeze beautifully - you can eat them straight from the freezer (better than an ice pop on a hot day!) or pop them frozen in a lunch box – they’ll defrost but stay beautifully cool for lunch time.
3. Citrus Fruits – We almost always have a variety of oranges and ‘peeling oranges’ (clementines, satsumas & mandarins) as Small Child calls them in our fruit bowl. Serve oranges sliced - like grapes, they freeze well and can be added to a lunch box straight from the freezer, to be nicely defrosted by lunch time. Pop clementines etc into a lunch box whole, or peeled and broken into segments. Add to fruit skewers or fruit salads.
4. Kiwi -Cut kiwi fruits in half and pack a small spoon, or peel and cut into slices or chunks. When cutting in half, use a small sharp knife to cut a zig-zag pattern for extra pretty fruit (like the one in this lunch).
5. Dried Cranberries – like apricots, dried cranberries are an excellent store-cupboard stand-by and they make a nice change from raisins. Serve as they come, add to salads, sprinkle on top of yoghurts or mix with other dried fruits, nuts and seeds to make a tasty trail mix.
6. Apple – Pop a whole apple in your lunch box, or core and cut into slices, rings or chunks. You can carve pretty patterns into apple skin using a small sharp knife and/or mini bento cutters. Don’t forget to dip or brush any cut surfaces with orange or lemon juice to prevent browning.
7. Bananas – Fresh Bananas are a classic lunch box fruit, with good reason - they make the perfect healthy fast food! In their dried form, banana chips are another great store-cupboard staple that we always have on hand. They can be quite high in sugar, particularly if they’ve been coated in honey or similar, so are best kept as an occasional treat. You could also try making your own.
8. Blueberries – Blueberries have a great reputation as a super food, and they’re easy to add to a lunch box. Serve as they come, or add to salads, fruit salad or fruit kebabs. Add them to home-made muffins and pancakes or chop and use to top yoghurt. Dried blueberries are also tasty, and another great dried fruit to keep in your store-cupboard.
9. Dried Apple Rings – As you can probably tell by now, I like to have plenty of dried fruit options in the cupboard for disorganised days! Dried apple rings are usually soft and chewy, and are a big hit with both of my children. Serve in rings, or chop into small pieces and mixed with other dried fruit, nuts or seeds to make a tasty trail mix. We like to add them to homemade granola, which makes a great topping for yoghurt.
10. Strawberries – No British summer is complete without strawberries! Serve them as they come, just slice off the tops or cut into slices or chunks. Add to fruit salads or use them in fruit kebabs. I love hulling strawberries and decorating them with cute leaf picks!
11. Dried Vine Fruits - We seem to get through a lot of dried vine fruits in our house (a mixture of raisins, sultanas and currents) so I buy them in bulk, store them in a plastic tub and just grab a handful when I need them. Serve by themselves, or add other dried fruits, nuts or seeds. Add to salads, homemade flapjacks, homemade granola or use to top yoghurts.
12. Raspberries – Beautiful pink raspberries add a lovely splash of colour to a lunch. Serve by themselves, add to other berries in a berry fruit salad, or use to top yoghurts. Also great encased in jelly – pop a handful into little tubs or jelly moulds, pour over sugar-free jelly and leave to set.
I hope I’ve managed to provide you with a few fresh ideas for your lunch box. I will be finishing this series next week with a selection of 12 different dairy options that are perfect for packed lunches. In the meantime, if you’d like some more lunch ideas, check out my free downloadable list of lunch box food ideas.
Do you have any suggestions for other fruits to use in a lunch box? I’m sure there are plenty I’ve missed and I’d love to hear your ideas!