From a mother’s mouth: time-saving lunch boxes

Rita McLuckie, mother of Ethan – a Type 1 diabetes patient, shares her tips for time-saving lunch boxes.

As moms, we are ruled by routines. This may sound familiar to all mothers of all backgrounds, in all countries and of all cultures. Starting early in the morning, after getting ourselves presentable for the day and before heading off, for most of us, to a full day at work, there are many little things that need to be done. My biggest annoyance in the morning has always been “What do I pack in the kids lunch boxes today?”

Son is a fussy eater

I will be the first to admit that I am terrible at planning, I am indecisive and always running late. To top that, I have a extremely fussy eater in Ethan, my 10-year-old son. He has been living with Type 1 diabetes since he was 16 months old. Ethan also has epilepsy and is being treated for attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Some can say that fortunately the hunger-robbing Concerta is counteracted by the hunger-inducer Epilim. Though this is true to a certain degree, Ethan is naturally a person who does not enjoy eating. The only exception is when his blood sugar is dropping sharply, then he becomes a hungry little PacMan.

Thumbs down to an old-school sandwich

Neither of my sons (I have a teenage son Aiden) were ever particularly fond of the old-school favourite – the sandwich. This is a good thing though, since this traditional lunch box filler, coupled with fruit and the occasional treat, is high in carbohydrates.

Nonetheless, Ethan has to eat and because he is reluctant to eat bread, this presented a huge challenge for me. Ethan must eat to maintain good health. If I know he is eating I don’t worry about him at work. Also, Ethan is rather small for his age. With a BMI of 16, he cannot afford to lose any weight at all.

Adapt and plan ahead

As a result of my own tardiness and indecisiveness, and most of all ensuring Ethan has a good selection of snacks to choose from, I have had to adapt and plan ahead a little.

My way of coping is to pre-pack smallish snacks which I can then pop into both kids’ lunch boxes in the morning. The snacks that I tend to go for are: sliders or mini burgers, mini protein filled pancakes, mini pulled beef naanwiches, samosas etc. These are all readily available, with varying prices, from Checkers, Pick ‘n Pay or Woolworths.

I accompany the little convenient snacks with fruit, a dairy (usually different cheeses) and a protein, such as biltong, nuts, meatballs, sausages, fish fingers/cakes. I know that my inclusion of carbs will probably be frowned upon by many in the diabetic community. However, when you have a child who would rather do almost anything than eat, I have had to compromise.

Provide a choice

The whole purpose of the lunches I pack is so that Ethan can choose what he wants to eat. He is not expected to finish absolutely everything in his lunch box.

I write the carb value for each item in his lunch box on a Post-it or similar sized note paper. Once he has decided what he wants to eat, he boluses himself for the carbs for each of the items he has chosen to eat. This way, I don’t have to worry about his blood sugar dropping too low as a result of him not eating enough for the insulin he is injected.

When Ethan’s blood sugar has gone low, the quickest way to fix it, usually involves high-sugar foods or juices, provided by a panicked teacher or school staff member, which then inevitably causes a high blood glucose reading later.

Aftercare lunch

We are fortunate in that the school aftercare lunches Ethan receives are relatively healthy cooked meals with a fruit in the afternoon. If Ethan does not want to eat the aftercare lunch on a particular day, he usually still has some snacks in his lunch box to choose from.

Lunch in pictures

Below are images of my box of snacks, usually pre-packed by me on a Sunday evening, and the resulting lunch boxes from Monday to Friday.

Lunchbox planning


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lunch box


Rita McLuckie lives in Benoni, Gauteng.