How to sneak vegetables into packed lunches: sweetcorn fritters
The start of the school term is the signal to step into a world of pencil cases, permission slips, assemblies and reading books.
But for parents, it’s also a the beginning of a dark descent into last-minute sandwich-making, a frenzied hunt for lunchboxes, and a squirreling away of cereal bars, yoghurt tubes and pieces of fruit that your kids may or may not eat.
So while you’re fresh to the game, I’d just like you to pause and think about an alarming statistic published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health – researchers at Leeds University found that only 20% of children’s lunchboxes contain any kind of vegetables. And just one in 10 contains a proper portion of veg.
I think this is so worrying. Vegetables contain vital vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants to help kids fight off disease. And in terms of your five-a-day, vegetables also contain less sugar than fruit, making for a much better bet for dental health and blood sugar.
I always include a portion of veg in my kids’ lunchboxes – usually batons of carrot, cucumber and either cherry tomatoes, red pepper or celery.
But kids do get bored, and sometimes the carrot comes home uneaten…
So this term I’m going to vary the veg, for example packing a little pot of butter beans (it makes up one portion of your child’s five-a-day); a wedge of Spanish tortilla, stacked with vegetables like red pepper, peas and mushrooms; or grated carrot mixed with humus and used as a filling for wraps and sandwiches.
I’ve also been testing out sweetcorn fritters on my kids. They make an ideal sandwich swap, can be prepared in advance and frozen and you can sneak in different veg – the ones below contain red pepper and spring onion as well as sweetcorn.
I tested them on my three kids, making two versions – one in which the veg had been blended to a smooth batter, and one in which whole sweetcorn kernels had been stirred through. We all ate them cold, as though for a lunchbox.
My eldest child preferred the lumpy fritters, and my middle one liked the smooth. My fussy three-year-old wouldn’t touch them at all – but then he’s still going through his no-new-food phase. You can read more about this here: My child doesn’t eat enough: 8 tips for fussy eating.
Overall, the kids thought they would make a tasty change from sandwiches, and that when served with a few crackers and cheese, they would be filling enough to get them through an afternoon at school.
Sweetcorn fritters with red pepper and basil recipe
Makes about 9 small fritters
325g tin of sweetcorn (drained weight 260g)
Half a red pepper, diced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Handful of basil, chopped
30g plain flour
½tsp baking powder
Groundnut oil/ vegetable oil for frying
Add half of the sweetcorn, the pepper, onions, basil, flour, baking powder and egg to a food processor, and blend to make a smooth batter.
To make a lumpy batter, stir in the rest of the sweetcorn kernels.
Heat the oil in a pan, and add a couple of teaspoons of the batter to a frying pan at a time to make small fritters.
Fry for about a minute each side per fritter.
It can be difficult to eat food with no junk, so join the Organix challenge to say no to junk and yes to healthy, real food for your family. Sign up to get involved by clicking on http://www.organix.com/nojunk
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