A healthy school lunch is the best thing you can send your kids off to school with in the mad morning dash to get out the door. Often hectic routines can get in the way of sending the kids off with a healthy lunch box of food to keep them going throughout the day.
Eating healthy foods helps children concentrate and learn and will set them up for the future with healthier eating patterns. Encouraging children to select their own lunch box items will mean they will be more likely to eat it. Setting a good example for your children is also important so try to set a good example with your own lunches and encourage your child to sit and eat before heading out to play.
There are so many processed foods such as muesli bars, cookies, crisps and crackers on the market which appeal to parents for their convenience and kids because of their high sugar and fat content. We’re not saying all these products are bad just to be wary of which products you buy we encourage you to take a look at the nutritional content and not to fill up your child’s lunch box of all of these sorts of items.
Some health food suggestions include:
- Fruit: fresh or tinned and occasionally dried fruit as it is very high in sugar, low in fibre and stick to children’s teeth causing tooth decay.
- Vegetables: try vegetables with a dip or a small container of mixed vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, capsicum and cucumber.
- Dairy: a small drink of milk (freeze overnight and wrapped in a cloth in the lunch box), cooled fruit yoghurts, homemade versions of cheese and crackers (avoid sweet dips such as chocolate spread and oven-baked savoury biscuits are just as high in salt and fat as chips are so are best avoided).
- Breads: attempt to include a variety of bread, particularly if children begin to lose interest in sandwiches. Try bread rolls, pita bread, flat bread, bagels, fruit loaf or buns, corn thins, scones, pikelets, muffins, crumpets, crisp breads to keep it varied.
- Fillings: keep the sandwich fillings varied also with vegemite, peanut butter, different types of cheese, tuna, egg, sliced cold meats, grated carrot and lettuce, avocado, hommus, the list goes on.
- Muffins and cakes: try making your own at home to include more fruit and vegetables and to eliminate additives. Sultana, carrot, zucchini, banana or pumpkin can be used in various baking.
- Muesli and ‘breakfast’ bars: these are almost always too high in sugar and stuck together with fats and sugar. Try to avoid or keep to a minimum.
- Water and milk: are the best drinks for children and can be frozen to help keep foods in the lunch box cool. Sweet drinks such as fruit juices, juice drinks, cordials, sports drinks, flavoured mineral waters, soft drinks are high in sugar and not necessary as they can increase the risk of tooth decay and are filling so may take the place of healthier foods.
Since time is usually of the essence you can prepare lunch boxes in advance the night before or some items can be prepared for the week and frozen such as bread, cooked meat, cheese, peanut butter, baked beans, mashed egg, yeast or vegetable spreads such as vegemite.
For more tips or information about your child’s lunch box or eating habits you can contact your school nurse, community health nurse, Dieticians’ Association of Australia or us here at Docmate and we will point you in the right direction.
Better Health Channel (2012). Lunch Box Tips. Retrieved 14 October 2012 from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Lunchbox_tips#
Burrell, Susie (2007). How to pack a healthy kids lunch box. Retrieved 14 October 2012 from http://www.taste.com.au/news+features/articles/1156/how+to+pack+a+healthy+kids+lunch+box