July is ending and with it the school holidays. It’s time for the kids to go back to school – preferably with a nice lunch bag in hands. O lunch of the little ones has been a hot topic on social media: mothers and influencers are successful by posting videos with beautiful and complete lunch boxes. But, after all, what does it take to assemble a respectable lunch box?
Here’s the first tip: a good lunch box has much more to do with variety and a balanced snack than with fancy recipes. “The main objective is always the nutrition of the child. But it is necessary to think of attractive and practical snacks”, advises chef Cristina Paulo, owner of the SOS Cupcakes bakery and specialist in cooking for children.
Videos of how to assemble fun and balanced lunch boxes became a hit on social media. Photo: Alex Silva/Estadão
Snacks are not only important for children’s nutrition – at school, the snack time it is also a time of recreation, of relaxing and playing. No wonder the assembly of lunch boxes is on the rise on social networks, such as TikTok.
Influencer Giovanna Bichels is now successful with lunch box videos – but she already published a lot of content about food, always alongside her two-year-old daughter Catarina. “I started making videos about food introduction, because Catarina was at that stage”, she says. “That period passed, and I started talking about other things. When she started going to school, lunchbox videos were already in vogue, and my followers started asking me for content on the topic.”
If snack time is so fun for kids, putting together the lunch box can be too. See below for tips to prepare a good lunch for your children.
No need to invent fashion
With the hype of lunch box videos, some parents think their kids’ lunch needs to be very special – and even “Instagrammable”. Giovanna guarantees that this is not true.
“Kids need their lunch box every day, so it needs to be something practical,” he says. “With this video fad, people think the lunch box needs to be full of extremely wonderful recipes. But it’s important to think about practicality too.”
As chef Cristina Paulo says, the main objective of the snack is nutrition. Therefore, it is important to think of a balanced meal, with fruits, sandwiches, cookies, juices, coconut water… “It is very important to respect the child’s taste, but remember that the snack is a great opportunity to introduce new foods to her”, advises chef Cristina Paulo.
And the acceptance of the child, guarantees Giovanna Bichels, also has to do with the variety in the look. “Catarina, for example, does not accept many fruits. So, I try to vary the format of the cuts, to give her that diversified”.
to eat with your hands
When thinking about snack recipes, remember: children usually eat with their hands! “Think of snacks that are practical and that can be consumed with your hands or with napkins”, says Cristina. With this little rule, anything goes: muffins, muffins, sandwiches, cookies, and fruits like grapes and bananas.
The chef also points out that the snack needs to be composed of recipes that do not need to be refrigerated, as they will be at room temperature inside the lunch box for a long time.
Avoid the ultra-processed
It is very easy to buy ready-made snacks, in packages, in supermarkets. But is this the best way out for children? Chef Cristina guarantees not. “Escape from ultra-processed foods is a difficult task, especially since parents have a busy routine. But it’s worth! Shoo, boxes and plastic packaging”, he encourages.
Chef Cristina Paulo, from SOS Cupcakes, specializes in cooking for children. Photo: Alex Silva/Estadão
She guarantees that, if there is time, cooking with children is a fun activity and very beneficial to the little ones, who start to want to try new things. “Cookies, sandwiches, colorful pancakes, vitamin smoothies… run to the kitchen and get started,” she advises.
‘What matters is balancing, not depriving’
This sentence above is said with conviction by chef Cristina: children can eat anything, as long as there is balance. The little ones can, therefore, eat that sweet treat, but in moderation. “In my opinion, you can have it all, but not every day,” she says. “You can even create a day for the child to choose what they want in the lunch box. For example, on Fridays, she can choose one or two special items. Within a list provided by the parents, of course.”
The chef also points out that the choice of recipes depends on the age of the child, to think about food, quantity and variety.
The subject is controversial. Influencer Giovanna Bichels feels it on her skin – or rather, on her cell phone screen. It’s just that comments rain on their social networks on the subject, sometimes praising, sometimes criticizing. “Before the age of two, Catarina did not eat sugar – it was the doctor’s recommendation”, she comments. “A lot of people thought it was amazing, but some people thought it was horrible; they even asked to put stuffed cookies… and many people who say that are not even mothers”.
But, in Catarina’s lunch box, there’s a little bit of everything: flour cookies, wholemeal cake, tube with peanut butter (the girl’s favorite!), cookies with or without sugar…
Good lunch box and accessories
It’s not just food that the snack lives! There’s another very important detail: the lunch box itself. It is she, after all, who will keep the lunch until the right time for it to be enjoyed.
It is therefore important to choose spacious lunch boxes. If there is division, even better: that way, the snacks don’t mix.
Invest in forks and cutters in different formats to catch children’s attention. Photo: Alex Silva/Estadão
In addition, there are accessories that help – and a lot! – , such as pots and thermos bottles, which help maintain the temperature. “The lunch box itself can be thermal”, comments Giovanna. “This is very important, because the child takes time to eat the snack. Catarina, for example, goes to school in the morning and eats her lunch only in the afternoon”.
Put on the apron and… hands on!
Want some inspiration to prepare a delicious snack for the kids? You can even do it with them! Check out the recipe for Salgado Muffin, by chef Cristina Paulo.
Yield: 8 muffins
1 grated zucchini (about 175g)
4 chives, finely chopped
225g of flour
1 teaspoon of yeast
1 roasted and chopped tomato
100g finely grated parmesan
A few sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
2 beaten eggs
90 ml of sunflower oil
80 ml of whole milk
1Preheat the oven to 180°C.
twoCoarsely grate the zucchini through a fine sieve and use clean hands to squeeze as much liquid as possible over the sink.
3Pour the zucchinis into a bowl along with the spring onions, flour, yeast, tomato, most of the cheese and the chopped rosemary.
4Season with a little pepper and a pinch of salt.
5In another bowl, break the eggs, add the oil and complete with the milk. Whisk a little and then pour into the zucchini mixture. Mix well until obtaining a more homogeneous mass.
6Divide the mixture into muffin pans, already lined with paper cups.
7Top each muffin with the remaining cheese and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until risen, firm, and golden on top.
8Let it cool completely and have fun creating ways to wrap the muffins for the kids’ lunch box! Tip: Can be refrigerated for 3 days.