Lunchbox Ideas: Bread

by Jadwiga O'Brien on September 9, 2011

Healthy Sandwich

Bread in school lunches needn't be boring & there are lots of healthy options!

Let’s face it, bread and pastries form the main part of most school lunchboxes.

Whether it’s a sandwich, bap or wrap, bread gives parents a quick and easy solution to fill hungry tummies.

Taking into consideration the amount of bread we eat, maybe it’s time we thought about using some alternatives to the regular white sliced?

What’s Wrong with White?

The refining process used to make white bread removes the natural bran and germ from the wheat grain. Removing the bran and germ increases shelf life but it also removes half the B vitamins, 90 percent of the vitamin E, and virtually all of the fibre from the wheat grain.

Brown is Better

Bread that is made using wholemeal or wholegrain flour contains the three key parts of the grain – the endosperm, germ and bran. These parts of the grain contain the vital fibre, nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can help to prevent disease. Numerous studies have shown that eating wholegrains can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, digestive diseases, and certain cancers.

The recommended amounts of fibre to be eaten per day varies depending on age and gender and the source of the guidelines. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends that both adults and children get at least 20g of dietary fibre a day. One slice of wholemeal bread can contain about 3g of fibre, but check the labels to be sure. Don’t forget to get fibre from other sources such as fruit, veg, cereals and other products such as wholegrain pasta.

Alternatives to Sliced Bread

While a regular loaf of sliced bread is a handy staple to have in your kitchen cupboard, don’t forget to try out some of it’s equally convenient cousins. Not only could they be a healthier option they can also add a bit more variety to school lunches. Where there’s an option between brown and white – go for brown.

Pitas

One of the best alternatives to regular sandwich bread. Because of the way they form into pockets when you cut them in half, you get an ideal space for fillings. Unlike sandwiches however, they are best kept upright to keep the fillings from falling out.

Baps

Soft bread rolls similar in shape to a burger bun. It doesn’t have a crunchy crust like regular bread rolls so it doesn’t make as much of a mess when you’re cutting it to put in your filling, and it might be easier for your child to eat.

Wraps (e.g. Tortillas, Chapatis)

A great way to jazz up what might normally be a boring sandwich.  Once filled they can be cut up into different sizes (sometimes called “pinwheels”) so they can tidily fit in lunchboxes. Just like breads, wraps come in lots of varieties so be sure to try out a few.

Rolls (Baguettes)

Probably one of the most common breads we eat. Although rolls have a lovely crunchy texture, this can make them a bit messy to slice. The filling is also more likely to fall out of a roll so it might be best to wrap them up in a paper bag to avoid losing too much of the good stuff!

Bagels

These might seem like a strange alternative to a sandwich, but they do work! Simple fillings that are kept together with something like hummus work well, as this keeps everything from falling out. Maybe not ideal for everyday, but definitely one to try out now and again.

Finger Rolls

Probably more easily recognised as hot dog rolls.  They are similar in texture to a bap but are more like a baguette in shape. Because of this, they aren’t too messy to prepare. Go for soft brown finger rolls for an extra healthy option, and add one of our favourite sandwich fillings.

Things to Avoid: Salt & Sugar

Unfortunately, many of the breads we eat can be very high in salt. Be sure to compare salt content by checking labels before you buy. Try to avoid bread that is high in salt. Check the label – for every 100g of bread:

  • 1.5 g of salt is a lot
  • 0.1 g of salt is a little

While salt  is one of the most important things to check for on bread, it also helps to look at sugar content. Avoid breads containing 10g (or more) of sugar per 100g.

Gimmicks

Don’t get sucked into clever marketing campaigns which promote the health benefits of certain products. Most of the time, the breads that are better for you are the ones without all the advertising campaigns and fancy packaging. Take the extra minute or two it takes to compare labels and you’ll often end up with a better deal and a better product.

Now that we’ve given you some alternative bread ideas, let us know how you get on – leave a comment below! If you come up with any tips be sure to share them with other parents in our Facebook community.

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