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How to get kids to eat Pulses and Grains

How to get kids to eat Pulses and Grains

Back to School Lunches Beyond Spreads for Bread

By Alex Mackay, Merchant Gourmet cook

I’ve discovered tons of tasty ideas for portable lunches over the past six years of making lunches for my kids. The challenge with a packed lunch can be finding time to make it, so it seems faster to prepare the same thing every day. This doesn’t need to be the case, especially if you make some of it at the same time as dinner the night before, or get help from a tin or a pouch.

A portable lunch needs a base which is why it’s easy to reach for bread. I love a good sandwich, but cooked pasta or pulses and grains are as simple as sliced bread if they are pre-cooked by you, or cooked for you in a tin or pouch. Making salads with these is often quicker than making lots of sandwiches and it’s also a great way to use up leftovers while they’re still fresh. A little planning saves you money, stops waste and leads you into a habit of eating and expecting delicious variety at lunchtime.

When you introduce kids to a new ingredient for their lunches, lentils for example, add flavours that are familiar to your kids, I often use dried fruit and grated carrots. I also get the boys to help me make and taste the salads before we put them into the lunch boxes so that they’re happy and know what to expect. Here are some ideas to start you off…

Mix and Match Lunchbox Salad Bar

Start with…

Cooked couscous, whole wheat giant couscous, quinoa, rice, lentils, cannellini beans, mixed grains, chickpeas, freekeh, spelt, salad potatoes or wholewheat pasta.

Make any of these into a salad with one or more of…

  • Filling protein: Leftover roast chicken, beef, pork or lamb. Ham. Tinned salmon or sardines. Boiled eggs. Grated cheddar, chopped mozzarella or crumbled feta or goat’s cheese. More lentils, lentils are high in protein.
  • Crunchy raw vegetables and fruit: Grated carrots, apple or pear, chopped cucumber, diced peppers, chopped fresh tomatoes, sliced radishes.
  • Tender cooked vegetables: leftover or freshly cooked carrots, peas, beans, pumpkin, corn, cauliflower and broccoli (stalks and leaves as well) are all good in grain or pasta salads; just cook extra the night before.
  • Chewy preserved vegetables: Olives, sun dried tomatoes, bottled peppers, tinned artichokes.
  • Seeds: These are a great way to add nutrition; pumpkin, chia, linseed, sunflower, hemp.

Season or dress them with… 

  • Basic dressing: Olive oil, lemon juice, salt, sugar and pepper. (You can add mint, basil, chives or parsley from the plants on your windowsill if you have some)
  • Sweet and sour: Dried apricots, raisins or cranberries with lemon or lime zest and juice, with or without fresh herbs, or seasoned with cumin, raz-el-hanout or Za’atar.
  • Asian: Soy sauce, ginger, lemon, lime or orange juice. You can add a touch of honey too.
  • Creamy: Mustard and crème fraiche. Yogurt and citrus or herbs.