Summer in Australia means school aged kids are under their parent’s feet at home, yet, paradoxically, many parents actually look forward to School holidays. Why? One reason is that holidays means a slower start to the day, no school run stress, no juvenile screaming they can’t find their hat/maths homework/bus-card, and most significantly, no need to prepare school lunch boxes, each and every morning.
Day after school-term day, many parents over-stress and almost tear their hair out trying to provide a nutritious, yet appealing school lunchbox for their kids, particularly during the high school years. As any parent with teens knows, asking adolescents to consume anything remotely wholesome and not packaged in four layers of plastic or laced with half a salt mine, is tantamount to offering them a piece of buttered cardboard and likely to be received with this enthusiastic response:
So how does home-cooked food, originating from the household pantry or fridge, compete with the highly addictive products of multinational food companies or their derivatives, with the myriad of flavourings, salt and sugar content? How did we get to this situation?
What society thought school lunch should look like –
What teenagers thought school lunch look like –
What parents think school lunches are like –
With the impending start of the school work year, I decided the school lunchbox had to be not only visually appealing, but tasty as well and, it had to tick most of the ‘healthy lunch’ boxes, (no pun intended!) So I studied a few basic muffin recipes and came up with my own savoury muffin that I am confident even the fussiest teen would be hard-pressed to refuse, (and if he/she does, there is always bribery and corruption as Plan ‘B’….)
The real secret to this recipe is that it looks like a sweet cake in appearance, (first duplicitous manoeuvre) and, secondly, it tastes like the junk food on offer at most food outlets, (but is actually good to eat).
Enter the Savoury Muffin to Die for……
The rosemary and sea salt topping really stimulates those adolescent taste-buds and once your teen has shown a positive interest such as, “What’s that you are cooking, Mum?” comments, and eats a few here and there: then and only then might I suggest slowly, (over a few batches), decreasing the amount of sea salt used as topping, to improve the nutrition levels further. Easy does it though: Teen noses and taste buds can easily detect the covert operation you might have in mind.
The list of suggested fillings, is one that you can add as many or as few of these as you have on hand, or in the pantry, without unduly affecting the outcome of the recipe.
Experiment to see which flavors teens like best.
[Makes 12 serves]
2 cups Self Raising Flour
(or 2 cups Plain flour with 4 teaspoons of baking powder added)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
80 g Butter, melted
1 tablespoon good quality Olive Oil
1 cup Milk ( I use low-fat)
1 slice Ham – diced
1/3 cup grated Zucchini (courgette)
1 clove Garlic, minced
1/3 cup Baby spinach, diced
1/3 cup cooked Pumpkin (roasted or steamed)
1/3 cup Capsicum strips, roasted (can use jarred variety)
80 g Feta cheese ( crumbled)
20 g Feta cheese ( crumbled), extra
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Rosemary
Optional extra or substitute fillings:
1 tablespoon Olives, sliced
1 tablespoon Parsley
1 teaspoon Mint leaves
2 sticks Spring Onions, sliced
1/3 cup Sun-dried Tomatoes
Pineapple Pieces – (drained well)
Pre-heat Oven 200 degrees
Mix Flour and Baking powder in large bowl.
Mix melted Butter, Oil and Egg and Milk in separate bowl.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently with a wooden spoon.
Fold in the rest of the ingredients only until just mixed and no lumps of flour remain.
Fill a Muffin pan that has been lined with paper Muffins cases to 2/3 capacity.
Sprinkle Parmesan, extra Feta and a mixture of Rosemary and Sea salt on top.
Bake for 20 minutes or till golden brown on top.
Cool on a wire tray covered with a fresh tea towel to prevent muffins drying out.
These muffins freeze well wrapped individually or in a seal-proof container.
The perfect morning tea or lunch snack for those on the go.
P.S. If you are really daring or have one of those ” I’ll eat anything as long as it’s food,” kind of kids: Round off the lunch box offerings with some hummus, hard-boiled eggs and fruit.
Filling the lunch box give parents ‘Something to Ponder About’
Early development and exploration is all about putting items into the mouth in order to explore the world. Some kids will want to eat everything in sight, despite being well fed with nutritionally sound meals. Why is this?
Having something in our mouth is a very primitive, calming tool. In utero, babies often suck their thumb, and after birth soothe themselves by being bottle or breast fed. But some have a greater need for sucking, mouthing objects, chewing or eating everything in reach. This may be a dummy or bottle teat, a toy or spoon, their own clothes (shirt collars and ribbons/ties are often chewed), and in older children, it might be a pen, or gum.
Chewing is really a way for infants and children to self-soothe, but also a way for them to seek out additional opportunities to get oral information about their environment. Some children have a stronger than average sensory need for this kind of feedback and it is these children who might continue to exhibit chewing, in an attempt to regulate their sensory systems.
Chewing on items also provides a lot of deep pressure and ‘proprioception’ * (sense of body position in space), especially to the jaw and facial muscles. Some children will chew in order to gain this understanding of their jaw’s positions in space, particularly if they don’t get this feedback easily through eating, or if they are not able to tolerate solid food which requires chewing, (due to age or health status). In addition, children who suffer anxiety, and some of those on the autistic spectrum might display a greater need for feedback of oral sensory information than most of the population and in doing so are attempting to regulate their sensory systems or self-soothe.
Furthermore, I have noticed some children can become a bit ‘obsessed’ with food, and tend to over-eat despite not being hungry, looking for anything to eat at all hours of the day. Food seems to occupy their every waking thoughts. They are frequently overweight. Is it possible these children are also seeking extra sensory input through eating?
Proprioception: body’s position in space as well as the force we are exerting or the speed of a movement. A child that seeks out body awareness information might pat animals with too much force, frequently bump or push other children, or frequently break things by pressing or pushing too hard on them.
What can be done?
If Kids are chewing on a spoon or constantly eating – an alternative might be to replace the object with crushed ice, cubes of ice, or very crunchy, chewy foods, depending on the age and health status of the child.
Throwing items (Casting):
As well as pushing, pulling and squeezing items, throwing items helps provide the muscles and joints with additional body awareness information and proprioceptive input. Throwing toys may give a child an increase in the amount of ‘body awareness’ information through his arms and shoulders, much in the same way other children get this information from running or jumping. If they are not able to run or jump, they might try to attain it through other means. This has implications for the mainstream behavioral management for these children.
Proprioception (and balance) can be increased by:
Weighted products – which may assist in providing additional information to the muscles and joints, providing extra body awareness information.
(Lap buddies, weighted blankets, weighted toys. – but never more than 10 % of body weight)
Vibrating items – this provides input to the muscles – these are often used in therapy or special needs settings
A wobble board
A Lycra suit or wrap gives significant sensory input due to its stretch properties
Lots of cuddles, squeezes and hugs – a great way for parents to help (and you can never overdose on hugs).
Children such as these are not just being “naughty.”