Written by Vicki Ma (Accredited Practising Dietitian)
Did you know children consume around a third of their daily energy intake at school? What we pack in their lunchbox plays a crucial role towards their ability to concentrate, learn and play.
This can seem like such an overwhelming and daunting task for many parents, but don’t worry we’ve got some great tips on how to pack a healthy lunchbox for your little ones, saving you time and stress.
Fuel Their Day
It’s extremely important for children to have healthy lunchbox choices to fuel their curious minds. Here are some suggestions on what you can pack for a “balanced” lunchbox which ticks all the elements:
- Grain foods (wholemeal/grain breads or wraps, multigrain crackers or rice cakes)
- Fresh fruit (apples, mandarins, chopped watermelon or strawberries)
- Vegetables (carrot, celery or cucumber sticks)
- Dairy (cheese, milk or yoghurt)
- Protein (canned tuna, boiled eggs, cooked chicken or falafel balls)
Dehydration can make it hard to concentrate and think clearly. Make sure to pack some fluids, preferably water or plain milk. Avoid packing sugary drinks such as fruit juice, cordial or flavoured milks as these are low in nutrients, high in sugar and can increase risk of tooth decay.
Healthy Food Swaps
Try out these healthier food swaps to help boost lunchbox nutrition.
Get Kids Involved
It’s important to get your children involved in planning and preparing their lunchbox from an early age. This will provide them with the opportunity to learn about healthy eating, also gives them a chance to make autonomous decisions about what they will be eating during the day. It could be as simple as choosing which fruit or veg they would like to go into the lunchbox, what sandwich filling they would like or getting them involved in making a veggie muffin for school. Studies have shown children are more likely to eat things they have helped prepare.
Keep it Safe
If food is not stored properly bacteria in the food can grow and make your children sick. Lunches kept in children’s school bags all day, are likely to get warm, and foods such as meat or cheese sandwiches, milk and yoghurt need to be kept cool.
Follow these tips to keep lunchbox food safe!
- Wash your hands before and after preparing food.
- Wash lunchbox and utensils before use
- Use an insulated lunchbox
- Pack a frozen water bottle, ice brick or yoghurt pouch to keep everything cool
- Refrigerate the lunchbox where possible
- Keep the lunchbox out of the sun.
Let’s be realistic, most parents are simply too busy to be creating healthy snacks for kids all the time. It’s absolutely fine to provide pre-packaged snacks as part of their lunchbox each day. Just make sure you choose healthier options that are lower in processed sugar, salt and contains a good source of fibre. Please see list below for some great suggestions: