Getting into the groove of going back to school after a long summer break is challenging, both for parents and for students.
And it’s not just the case of relearning how to wake up early. There’s also fear: for students, it’s how to fit in; for parents, concern for their children’s health and mental well-being. So mums and dads rack their brains and come up with tricks — little somethings — that their precious babies can remember them by at school. One such tip: using a lunch box. Cute notes, special cuts and favourite nibbles all make a child feel special and loved. Add a healthy dollop of nutrition to the mix, and there’s a two-pronged benefit: they won’t binge on sugary treats at school.
We asked five UAE-based parents what they put into their kids’ tiffins before classes begin.
The former teacher and now stay-at-home mother of 16-year-old Panchuri has a passion: to cook.
“She started with processed food; she was fascinated by the frozen fried food and all, so as a teacher, in my class, I used to implement this thing that no chocolate, no Nutella, and I used to emphasise more on healthy food: first break healthy wrap, second break, fruit. So I started narrating the same thing to my daughter — benefits of healthy food.” Prakash uses different shapes to keep her daughter engaged, along with notes that reinforce good behaviour. An example of one such note? “Doll, if you eat this you’ll make mama happy and your body happy.”
A look into Panchuri’s lunch box, which is accompanied by laban and coconut water drinks that have chia seeds:
Box one: Chapatis with flour and flaxseed powder, pumpkin and masour dal [lentils].
Box two: Heart-shaped idlis with smiles: one with a smile, the other a zip-lined face (to be chosen according to mood). Plus, green chana and moth sprout salad and coconut chutney.
Box three: Wholemeal bread sandwich with hung yoghurt, spinach, corn and flaxseed powder. Plus, guacamole (avocado, tomato, lemon juice, salt) and bitter gourd chips.
Shivanand Seetharam has a fun time putting together the lunch box of his daughter, seven-year-old Hanishka. “She doesn’t like junk food. If I put a plate of cucumber instead of fries, she’ll eat the cucumber completely. She prefers homely food,” he explains. As long as the food isn’t very spicy, she’ll polish it off, he says.
A look into Hanishka’s lunch box:
Dosa with vegetables, fruits and cheese corn
Nuzhat Merchant Ali
Merchant Ali lives a busy life as a digital director in a UAE-based ad firm, but she’s never too busy to sneak in some nutrition into her children’s (aged ten and five) lunch boxes. She explains her mantra as: “The rule is that something in the box that they like and something in the box that I like. And we try and keep it all different colours. Something they like will either be yoghurt or the cereal bars; and something I like will be [healthy] and different colours so it’ll either be orange (carrots) or cucumbers, sandwiches. And if they like things such as french toast and pancakes, we’ll make it at home, nothing that’s bought. And I smuggle in ingredients such as oats and other things that they won’t be able to [easily detect] in the preparation.
A look into Zoya (five) and Zureen Ali’s lunch boxes:
Box one: Mixed berries, french toast with honey and a cereal bar
Box two: Blueberry pancakes, vegetables and soft cake
Magdalena Maria Maksalon
For yoga teacher Magdalena, it’s important that her daughter, seven-and-a-half-year-old Malwina Magdelena Chrobot, eats clean and healthy food. Malwina is very allergy prone — she is allergic to eggs, wheat and lactose — so she is more difficult to cater to, says Magdalena. She says, however, that since she is fond of simple food, that’s what she gives Malwina too. Spring rolls with rice paper, vegetables, is a typical snack.
A look into Malwina Magdelena Chrobot’s box:
Sticky rice balls with sesame seeds and seaweed, vegetables and fruits.
For the mother of two boys (Alexandre and Oliver aged seven and two), creative services manager Carla finds a mix of healthy and unhealthy works best. “The older one is quite easy [to pack lunch for] because he eats a lot of vegetables, he is happy to eat salad ... so whenever possible I put in cucumber, carrots; a lot of finger food,” she explains. When pushed for cookies, “we go for healthier [options] — which are organic, if possible.”
A look into Alexandre and Oliver’s lunch boxes
Box one: Beetroot salad with walnuts, chicken with capsicum, fruits, oat cookies and compote
Box two: Whole-wheat pasta with cherry tomatoes, vegetables, oat cookies, fruit and compote