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As the countdown to the return to school began, tensions began to rise.
There were tantrums, tears, and meltdowns - and that was just from me!
And the biggest cause of stress? School lunches!
After a delightful few weeks where the kids could eat pretty much whenever and whatever they wanted, I realised I would once again be challenged with the task of filling small packages of healthy but yummy food that would carry them through the day. Food that would actually be eaten, and not returned at the end of the day, stinky and soggy.
Mr 13 has always been a challenge in the food department. With his serious food allergies, and ASD sensory issues, his choices are limited.
He's never liked sandwiches, and anything in the nuts or tree nuts department is immediately ruled out, due to anaphylaxis. His sister has also tested positively to tree nut allergies so she has to stay away from them as well. To top it off, she recently decided she hates bread too.
While I'm hardly an obsessive lunchbox Mum, I do admit to cutting sandwiches into cute shapes when they were toddlers - just to encourage them to try bread once again. This was before it was trendy and there were special sandwich cutters. I just used biscuit cutters instead.
But it was wasteful and time consuming. And the novelty quickly wore off. For all of us.
Sometimes I make sushi, because it's something both kids love. But that's time consuming and messy in the morning, when you just want to get everyone out of the house on time.
Plus there's the challenge of keeping everything cold until lunch time in the Queensland heat.
These days, I tend to stick to chicken salad wraps, crackers with cheese or vegemite, home-made snacks, and fruit.
They always get water, and usually a popper.
My two won't eat yoghurt at school, and they've never gone for the pasta salads, frittatas, savoury muffins and other recipes suggested by so many magazines and parenting websites for kids’ lunches.
They will occasionally eat leftovers at school - Harmonie loves curry, spaghetti bolognaise, and noodles - and the children both like soup in winter.
I’m not perfect, and I don’t always have home-made snacks ready to go, particularly as we get towards the end of the week and stocks get low. So I keep an eye out for yummy things I can pop into the lunch bags at the last minute to brighten their meals and help them through their day.
The nut thing rules out most muesli bars, and I’m not big a fan of chips, commercially-made biscuits, or so-called fruit snacks.
So I was interested when SunRice sent us some of their SunRice Mini Bites to try.
These are delicious, bite-size rice cakes, seasoned with tasty natural flavours and packed with whole grains for goodness. They have less fat than regular potato chips, so I don’t have to feel guilty when I slip then into the lunch box with some cheese, dip and carrot sticks. (Okay, only Harmonie eats the carrot sticks, but I’m hopeful Chase will one day!)
SunRice Mini Bites’ wholegrain and nutritional content makes them National Healthy School Canteen Amber compliant. And one pack contains almost 70 per cent of the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council’s recommended daily intake of wholegrain for toddlers, and around 40 per cent of the target intake for 4 - 9 year olds.
They are available in three flavours: Spooky Original, Devilish Chicken and Creepy Cheese.
My kids loved the chicken ones the most, while my neighbour’s younger children enjoyed the cheese flavour the best.
SunRice Mini Bites are available in the Woolworths’ health food aisle.
Thankfully, my kids have started to help make their own lunches, and these little snack packs are often one of the first thing they reach for after their wraps are made.
What are your kids like when it comes to school lunches? And do you ever stress over the contents?