For many parents, packing a healthy school lunch can be daunting. We want the lunch box to be nutritious and delicious yet there can be a lot of confusion and even worry over what to put in. No parent wants their child to come home to find an uneaten lunch box yet we sometimes worry that healthy means unappetizing.
Follow these simple guidelines to keep your lunch box appealing and your child healthy.
What to minimize -
Many packaged foods even those marketed for children can be high in sugar and more expensive so always read the label. Foods to be wary of include fruit roll ups, children's yoghurts, cereal bars and squeezy yoghurt pouches.
High sugar, low nutrient processed foods such as lollies, soft drinks, processed meats, flavoured chips.
Avoid poppers and juice which can be high in sugar and can contribute to tooth decay
Unnecessary wasteful packaging such as cellophane and plastic sandwich bags
What to include –
• A starchy food such as bread preferably wholegrain or high fibre bread, a wrap, pita bread or wholewheat crackers or brown rice cakes
• A protein food such as a hard boiled egg, legumes, canned tuna in springwater, slices of fresh meat or poultry
• Dairy food such as a baby hard cheese, cheese slice, plain milk or natural unsweetened yoghurt
• Fresh fruit preferably bite sized such as pieces of watermelon, berries, a peeled small orange
• Crunchy vegetables such as carrot sticks, baby cucumbers, cherry tomatoes
• Water. To make water more appealing, you can infuse it the night before with a couple of slices of orange or empty passion fruit shells. This gives flavour to the water. Simple decant (minus the fruit) into a water bottle the next day. You can also freeze the water bottle to help keep the water cooler for longer and to also keep the lunch bag at a cooler temperature.
Get creative with lunch ideas. Rather than stick to the same sandwich every day, try to mix it up with a variety of foods. This creates diversity and makes it more exciting for children. Go for as much colour as you can by introducing different fruits and veggies. Wraps, frittatas, mini sushi rolls and falafels are all a good alternative to the humble sandwich.
• Fruit such as a small banana or cut fruit in a small re usable container
• Buy large, family sized tubs of yoghurt and decant into reusable containers. Add fruit and/or a drizzle of honey or maple syrup to sweeten. This is not only more economical but it reduces packaging wastage and allows you to control sugar intake, flavours etc.
• Carrot sticks, hummus
• Cheese and wholegrain/wheat crackers
•Air popped popcorn. Again watch the salt content here. Choose non salted or lightly salted options. Some children's brands have a higher salt content than regular brands so again read your labels.
• If your child loves a sweet treat go for homemade where possible. Make your own mini muffins or banana bread which gives you the option to add extra veggies, use a higher fibre flour such as wholemeal and reduce the sugar content. Commercially bought cakes can be very high in sugar and low in fibre.
• Homemade bliss ball made with oats or seeds instead of nuts (many schools ban nuts).
• Dried fruit is high in concentrated natural sugar, whilst it does contain nutrients and fibre choose fresh fruit as your fruit of choice e.g. fresh grapes over sultanas.