This post is the start of a new mini-series on the Eats Amazing blog today, in which I will share 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. I hope that when the series is complete, you'll 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!
In today's post I will explore starchy foods, and share with you 12 different ideas for starchy 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. Oatcakes - We like to serve ours up with slices of cheese, ham or spreads such as houmous or soft cheese.
2. Rice Cakes - these are available in a range of sizes and flavours. We love Organix wholegrain rice cakes, which are enjoyed by both Small Child (aged 6) and Small Baby (aged 1) alike.
3. Crispbreads - These are available in quite a few varieties, with added extras such as seeds or oats. Ryvita now do a range of mini cripsbreads too, which come in various flavours.
4. Couscous - Serve plain on the side, or add whatever bits and pieces you have to hand. Chop up and mix in leftover meat, vegetables or even fruits such as grapes or raisins to make a delicious couscous salad.
5. Granola - serve by itself, or on the side to use as a topping for natural yoghurt or plain fromage frais. You can use ready made granola for convenience, or try making your own with this simple child friendly recipe.
6. Rice - serve plain, moulded into fun shapes or raid your fridge for bits and pieces to make a delicious rice salad. Chop up and mix in leftover meat, ham, salad vegetables or fruits such as grapes or raisins.
7. Potatoes - Potatoes are great for lunch in their various forms, such as boiled new potatoes, leftover roast potatoes, jacket potato halves or potato skins. I'll often save a few potatoes from dinner to add to Small Child's lunch box the next day.
8. Popcorn - I've long enjoyed popcorn as a healthier alternative to crisps, and there are a huge range of flavours available in the shops. Even better, buy some kernels and have a go at making it yourself - it's very quick and easy and you have complete control over what (if any) flavourings you choose to add.
9. Crackers - If I tried to list all the different crackers we like I'd be here all day! Trying different varieties and flavours can help keep your lunches from getting boring, and crackers make a nice change from sandwiches too. Serve up with slices of cheese, ham or spreads such as houmous or soft cheese. I always have crackers in the cupboard for those days when I'm all out of bread.
10. Pasta - Pasta comes in so many different shapes and sizes, it can really add some fun to lunch. We love fusilli, farfalle (bow ties!) and shaped pasta like the lovely space themed pasta in the picture below. As with rice, you can serve it up plain or add all sorts of bits and pieces to make a delicious pasta salad. Try mixing in leftover meat, ham, tuna or vegetables.
11. Tortilla Wraps - these are far more versatile than you might think! As well as filling and rolling them up in the usual way, you can also cut into bite size spirals, use to make tortilla crisps or make quesadillas.
12. Pretzels - Pretzels are a yummy addition to a lunch box. Though you probably wouldn't call them a health food, they do contain far less fat than standard crisps. They come in all sorts of fun shapes and sizes too!
I hope I've managed to provide you with a few fresh ideas for your lunch box. I will be continuing this series next week with a selection of 12 different vegetables 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 starchy foods to use in a lunch box? I'd love to hear your ideas!