The school year is well underway and whether it was your child’s first day of their first year or their first day of their last year, there is one fundamental school necessity that is always a top priority, and that is a healthy and nutritious lunch box. Providing your child with a lunch box full of nutritious food allows them to thrive, and gives them fuel for the day, enabling them to learn, grow and play!
There are many benefits in providing your child with a healthy lunch box; research suggests young tummies filled with nutritious foods allow for better concentration levels, and will keep your child fueled to take on all activities within their school day. In addition, it will improve your child’s physical and mental health, and will also enable your child to be more observant and motivated, which means learning and retaining more information!
Although sometimes it’s hard to know what to include in a healthy lunchbox, it’s so important for kids to have nutritious food options when they’re eating away from home. Now the challenging task is, preparing and packing a healthy lunch box that is not only packed with nutrients, but also appealing, interesting and delicious for kids. Completing this on a daily basis can get tricky; so to make this task easier lets break it down into some simple steps.
In creating a nutritious lunchbox, a good rule of thumb is to combine four main components: 1) a main item – think sandwiches, leftovers, or anything that will keep their hunger satisfied throughout the day. 2) A piece of fruit or a veggie snack – you can also combine these with some yummy dips! See the suggestions below for more ideas 3) A second core snack such as cheese and crackers, yoghurt or a healthy muesli bar. 4) A healthy drink (water is best!). These components should ideally meet the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating Guidelines, which encompass the 5 food groups that make up a healthy and balanced diet. These groups include Breads and Cereals, Fruit, Vegetables, Dairy, Meat and Meat alternatives. Incorporating a variety of food from each food group will provide your child with a wide range of nutrients that are important for healthy and growing bodies.
Here are some examples of healthy meals and snacks that you can put in your child’s lunchbox! Don’t forget to mix and match to cover all the food groups!
- Avoid drinks such as poppers and flavored milk; these contain high amounts of sugar, cause weight gain and damage children’s teeth.
- Choose water: children will often drink water if they see their friends doing the same!
- Get the kids to help with the preparation – pride in their work often means lunches are more likely to get eaten!
- Variety is key: a wide range of foods not only broadens your child’s tastes, it also means they are consuming the range of nutrients that they need to be healthy!
- Avoid items with added sugar, salt and high saturated fat content!
- Veggie dipping sticks: carrot, cucumber, zucchini, celery and baby corn can all be sliced & eaten on their own, or with a healthy dip.
- Veggie dips: To boost veggie intake. Try hummus, avocado, bean, carrot, tatziki or beetroot dip – they’re easy!
- Home-made chips: grab your favorite root veggies (carrots, sweet potato etc.) slice thinly, mix with herbs or spices (garlic powder), a little olive oil, and bake in the oven!
- Veggie rice paper rolls: thinly slice carrot and cucumber, wrap with sprouts and rice noodles in rice paper wraps. You can put anything in; try sliced chicken breast or tinned tuna!
- Celery sticks: fill celery sticks with things such cottage cheese with sultanas!
- Meatballs: these are easily made at the beginning of the week, and freeze well! Try adding extra veggies to the mixture, such as onion, carrot, or zucchini.
- Wraps: Go for a whole-grain wrap, and load it up with your child’s favorite salad! Try using guacamole or hummus as a sauce, and don’t forget some chicken, tuna or other lean protein.
- Sandwiches: Try rye, wholegrain or soy & linseed bread, and load with salad, lite cheese, and a lean protein such as chicken/turkey breast or tinned tuna!
- Try making your own snacks, such as packs of crackers and cheese or dip.
- Use leftovers where possible: this provides a good solid meal for your kids.