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By Ren Behan

School is almost out for the summer, but you might still need to make a packed lunch for the kids to take along to a daytime holiday club, or be looking for some ideas for a summer of family-friendly picnics.

It’s always tempting to fill lunch boxes up with sandwiches, crisps and treats, or with things we know our kids will eat, but if possible, try and squeeze in some fruit, veg and high-nutrient ingredients to keep things healthy.

If your children like pasta, try this colourful and healthy Mackerel pasta salad that’s easy to make ahead and pack away in a box. Remember to include some ice-packs to keep the salad nice and cool. Jamie uses bow-tie or butterfly pasta, but you can use any small shapes you have. Add in some cooked green beans, black olives (stones removed), cherry tomatoes and either tinned mackerel or smoked mackerel from a packet. This is a really versatile salad; I often make a version of it with leftover poached salmon or even tinned tuna. If your kids don’t like olives, just leave them out or swap them for some sweetcorn. This salad is a great way to pack in some omega-3 rich oily fish and lots of nutrients.

It can be hard to get kids to eat salad, which is why the Food Team recently wrote a post full of great tips. Keep it simple for a lunch box; don’t go for anything with a heavy dressing or it will go soggy. Sticks of chopped veg, such as carrots, cucumber or sweet peppers usually go down well or take a look at Jamie’s Simple crunchy side salad with lettuce and green beans added in there, too.

If you have time for baking, scones are probably one of the simplest things you can make for a lunch box. You can also double the recipe and make a big batch ready for picnics. Jamie’s Savoury scones are the perfect portable food, just remember to pack some chunks of cheese and apples slices and grapes to go with them and you’re ready to go.

Finally, don’t forget the fruit. Since the sunshine has finally made an appearance, wash and pack up some mixed summer berries – strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are all ripening on a fruit farm near you!

Ren Behan is a food writer and a mum of two. Find our more at www.renbehan.com


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