The start of another school year is a reminder to mums of the pressing need to get back into grind of preparing a tasty, appealing and nutritious school lunches, for hungry, growing children.
Unfortunately, despite the very best intentions, all too often sandwiches and fresh fruit are returned squashed in the bottom of school bags leaving parents in despair and children potentially not getting all of the nutrition they require.
The good news is that is very simple lunchbox formula is guaranteed to get the thumbs up from both the kids and nutritionists achieving a great balance between appealing, fun foods for kids and the key nutrients growing children need.
A nutritionally balanced lunchbox can be divided into five core sections:
1. Carbohydrates for energy
In most cases this will translate to a sandwich or wrap - where possible, choose grain or brown bread or you may find that wraps are a preferred option as they are easier to eat and less likely to go soggy. Always try and add a protein rich filling to your child’s sandwich – egg, lean meat or cheese or some good options. Protein rich fillings offer a number of important nutrients including iron, zinc and Vitamin B12. If you are worried about the freshness, pack an extra ice block or fresh sandwiches the night before.
Fresh fruit is always preferable to dried, fruit sticks or juice as it contains fewer kilojoules, more fibre and teaches children the importance of eating fresh food.
Adding a crunchy vegetable such as cut up carrot, celery, capsicum or baby tomatoes is a great way to encourage your child to eat more veges and provides much needed bulk for the lunchbox to help keep kids full throughout the afternoon.
4. Protein food
Protein rich foods including low fat dairy provides calcium and a number of other key nutrients including magnesium and phosphorous which all growing children need daily. Great protein rich lunchbox fillers include cheese sticks, yogurt tubes; milk protein based snacks bars and flavoured milk poppers are popular with children and are also low GI, which helps to keep kids fuller for longer after eating them.
5. Nutritious Snack
While children do not necessarily need packaged snack foods, not providing them may see them start to swap their lunchbox contents for other, more appealing options and hence providing a limited amount of snack food may prevent the swapping issue so, aim to provide just one packaged muesli or snack bar in your child’s lunchbox each day and try and choose options that have < 400kJ per serve.
Filtered water should always be the drink of choice for children. Fruit juice, soft drinks, sports drinks and cordials are high in sugar and are not appropriate everyday drinks for children.