Today’s post covers the final category in my ‘lunch box food ideas’ mini-series, in which I have shared food ideas to cover each of the five food groups that I use when packing lunches.
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. Now the series is complete, I think I've managed to provide 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!
In today's post I will explore dairy foods, and share with you 12 different ideas for dairy foods 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. Babybel - A massive favourite in our house, I almost always have some mini Babybel cheeses stashed away in the fridge. They're quick and convenient, and from a creative perspective are easy to customise to add a bit of fun to a lunch box too! Use mini cutters or a small sharp knife to cut designs into the wax, or cut in half and add a couple of raisins or blueberries to make a pair of edible eyes! They're available in a variety of flavours too, Small Child loves the purple ones when we can find them.
2. Roulé Cheese - If you like garlic then roulé cheese makes a great lunch box food. Pop a chunk in a container to spread on crackers, flatbreads, oatcakes or rice cakes, or use as a sandwich filler, either on it's own or with slices of ham. Spread on tortilla wraps and add meat and/or salad, or just pack in a pot with some bread sticks to dip in it.
3. Milkshake - Milkshake is always a big hit with my children. Rather than buying the sugary ready-made stuff, I make my own by blending fresh or frozen fruit with milk. Fruits such as bananas and berries work particularly well, and you can add a dash of honey to sweeten if you like. Pack homemade milkshake in a flask or reusable pouches (our favourites are the Nom Nom Kids ones). You can portion it up and freeze it too - just pop it in your lunch bag straight from the freezer and it will have defrosted and be ready to drink by lunch time.
4. Feta Cheese - Feta has a strong flavour, so doesn't always go down well with children, but it really is delicious paired with houmous and/or roasted red peppers. Use as a sandwich filler in bread, pitta breads or tortilla wraps, or crumble chunks into rice, couscous, pasta or leafy vegetables as part of a delicious salad.
5. Mozzarella Cheese - Mozzarella's mild taste often makes it a hit with children, and it can be fun to work with too. You can serve it raw or cooked, and it can even be moulded into fun shapes using a silicone mould! Serve sliced with fresh tomato, add chunks or mozzarella pearls to salads, use grated mozzarella to top homemade pizza (try English muffins, pitta breads or naan breads as a base), fill quesadillas or stir into warm or cold pasta.
6. Red Leicester Cheese - Small Child loves 'orange cheese' and it makes a nice change from cheddar occasionally. It generally has a mild flavour, and I've found that it often seems slightly easier to work with than cheddar when I want to cut it shapes with mini cutters. Use in the place of cheddar cheese, or mix with slices or chunks of cheddar for fun multi-coloured cheese.
7. Cheese Triangles - Like Babybels, cheese triangles are a really convenient food to keep on hand in the fridge. Pack with crackers, oatcakes, flat breads or rice cakes, or use a filler for sandwiches, pitta breads or tortilla wrap spirals. You can even stir them into warm pasta to make a delicious creamy sauce.
8. Cream - Not the most obvious of lunch box foods, but cream makes a delicious summer treat with fruit such as strawberries or raspberries. Pack a small portion in a leakproof container, either 'as it comes' for dipping, or whip up double cream for dolloping on fruit or scones with jam. Be sure to keep your lunch box cool – see this post for some handy tips in the hot weather.
9. Yoghurt - I couldn't write a post about dairy foods without mentioning yoghurt! I think that it finds its way into most of my lunches in one form or another! There are a whole host of yoghurt products out there aimed at children, but I prefer to buy large tubs (usually of natural yoghurt) and portion it out myself, as it's cheaper, more eco-friendly and usually healthier, with less sugar and flavourings than most children's yoghurts. Serve up in a leak-proof container (or a leakproof lunch box like the Yumbox), freeze in fun shapes using silicone moulds or use re-usable pouches such as these from Nom Nom Kids. You can freeze it in the pouches too - just pop it in your lunch bag straight from the freezer and it will have defrosted and be ready to eat by lunch time. To make natural yoghurt more interesting, I often add a dollop of jam or honey, or serve with granola or dried fruit to sprinkle on top. For a special treat, I occasionally add sprinkles or dark chocolate chips too.
10. Crème fraîche - Another one that isn't the most obvious of lunch box foods, but crème fraîche is delicious stirred into pasta. Try adding bacon or ham, peas or broccoli and a little grated cheddar for a delicious pasta salad. Also lovely with fruit - stir in some crushed berries and a little honey or sugar for a tasty dessert.
11. Cheddar Cheese - A big favourite in our house, I always have a block of cheddar cheese in the fridge. Use as a sandwich filler - on its own or with marmite, tomatoes, spring onions or ham, in bread, rolls, pittas or tortilla wraps. Use to top homemade pizza (try English muffins, pitta breads or naan bread as a base), sprinkle in quesadillas, cube or grate and add to salads. Serve grated, sliced or cubed as a finger food or with crackers, oat cakes and flat breads. Also delicious with sliced apple or fruit cake!
12. Goats Cheese - Like feta cheese, goats cheese has a strong flavour, so doesn't always go down well with children, but it is also delicious paired with houmous and/or roasted red peppers. Use as a sandwich filler in bread, pitta breads or tortilla wraps, or crumble chunks into rice, couscous, pasta or leafy vegetables as part of a delicious salad. Add to home-made pizzas and quesadillas too for a burst of extra flavour.
I hope I’ve managed to provide you with a few fresh ideas for your lunch box. I will complete this series next week with a round up post to tie all the ideas together, I hope that it will be a useful resource! 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 dairy foods to use in a lunch box? I’d love to hear your ideas!