Marmite sandwich anyone? The slummy mummy guide to healthy packed lunches

There are some household chores, like making sure all my books lie flush to the edge of the shelves, that I really don’t mind doing. There are others, including anything that involves getting my hands wet, that I just can’t bear. One of these is making packed lunches.

I know it’s ridiculous, because it only takes a few minutes, but there’s something about knowing I’m going to be putting half of it in the bin in six hours time that makes the whole experience rather futile and depressing.

What’s the point in carefully chopping carrot sticks or crafting individuals cous cous filled pitta parcels when you know you’ll end up scraping most of it off the inside of the lunchbox lid at the end of the day?

One thing I do manage to do though is make a nod to Belle’s five-a-day, unlike 40% of kids, who according to the BBC today are being given lunches with absolutely no fruit or vegetables in at all.

I’m not saying Belle’s lunches are always terribly original or imaginative – “do I have to have marmite every day Mummy?” – but surely it’s not hard just to chuck in an apple or something? Seriously? I cheat a bit and give Belle a carton of fruit juice a day. One out of five. Done. Handful of raisins maybe? Two. Easy peasy. Sometimes I’ll even get her to eat fresh fruit, God willing.

It’s not rocket science is it?

The fact that nearly half of every lunch box in the country is devoid of fruit and veg rather shocked me. How can we expect children to grow up eating a healthy balanced diet if they aren’t even given the opportunity to bring their bananas home, bruised and battered?

I am hoping that Belle will one day develop a love of lunches that will inspire me to take a bit more trouble, but at the moment it’s still a frustrating process.

This morning I was very clear with her. “I want you to eat the blueberries and the yogurt before the raisins or cereal bar. We can use those again if you don’t have room, but you have to eat the fresh things.”

She looked like she’d understood, but she has a tendency to ‘forget’ between leaving home and lunch time, so I always question her when she gets home.

“How did you get on with lunch?” I asked, picturing a lunch box interior smeared with warm yogurt.

“Fine,” she answered, looking a bit shifty, “I ate the blueberries and the yogurt before the other things.”

“Excellent! You ate everything? Well done!”

“Well,” cue awkward shuffling of feet, “nearly everything. Apart from the sandwiches. You didn’t tell me I had to eat those.”

I think the individual pittas are still a long way off…



  1. 3 October, 2011 / 3:46 pm

    I love marmite! More than anything! My grandmother is british and that is the one thing I OWN!!! We have a small british goods store here and I pay 25 bucks for the big jar…I eat it every day!

    • 4 October, 2011 / 8:14 am

      My goodness, 25 bucks? That’s Marmite commitment :-)

  2. Nick
    3 October, 2011 / 4:14 pm

    I wonder if the wonder of academies, free schools and more will see a return to the far more efficient and nutritious school canteen, cooked lunches and dinner ladies?

    One tip for kids: get them to help you make the lunch, and then get them to help you throw away/put on compost heap the remains … a stake in the effort and sight of the consequences might help.

    • 4 October, 2011 / 8:16 am

      Gotta love dinner ladies. What I also found interesting though was that 10% of all school dinners contained no fruit or vegetables either – you’d think that would be compulsory or something wouldn’t you?

      I do rant about waste and wave the compost bin under Belle’s nose a far amount but it doesn’t make a great deal of difference. Maybe I need to take her on a day trip to a landfill site or something and really ram it home.

  3. Nick
    3 October, 2011 / 4:16 pm

    … and by mentioning nutritious dinner ladies, I am not advocating cannabalism.

  4. 3 October, 2011 / 5:22 pm

    I couldn’t believe it when I read that 40% stat on the Beeb website today!

    Saying that the price of fruit and veg is rather high compared to some of those high salt high salt packaged alternatives.

    Bean takes a packed lunch to nursery and insists on 8 (count them mummy) -no more or less will be accepted), raspberries and a sarnie (usually marmite or choc spread but never together!)

    Costs me a flaming fortune every week-if she’d eat value brand salted chipsticks then maybe I could afford to dye my hair more than once every 3 months!

    • 4 October, 2011 / 8:17 am

      Raspberries are shockingly expensive aren’t they? Yummy though. That is a very cute sounding packed lunch :-)

  5. 3 October, 2011 / 10:43 pm

    That lunch looks pretty good! X

    • 4 October, 2011 / 8:18 am

      I should say it’s not a photo of anything I’ve ever prepared (obviously). It IS sweet though.

  6. 4 October, 2011 / 6:09 am

    That photograph is nonsense to me. What child (or adult for that matter) wants half their pack lunch to be moudly slices of raw fruit and veg?
    Okay so i’m jaded – my eldest won’ eat a single fruit or veg, but what’ the matter as you say with raisins, ONE piece of WHOLE fruit, sandwiches AND crisps? That’s a proper packed lunch to me. Not trying to get them to eat like a 40-yr old woman on a diet with all this rice cakes, wholemeal pitta and carrot sticks.


    • 4 October, 2011 / 8:18 am

      The photo is a bit odd isn’t it? It must contain about seven calories. What kind of lunch is that? You’d want a pork pie afterwards.

  7. Lisbeth
    4 October, 2011 / 8:24 am

    Sometimes I put plastic fruit and veg into the children’s lunchboxes. It saves getting the real stuff bruised. Sometimes I get carried away and put a plastic mackerel in. They think I am FUNNY. Probably.

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