Each day children head out with their lunchboxes packed, ready to tackle the day ahead. A packed lunch is a great opportunity to get some top nutrients into their bodies to help get them through their hard working school day! As a parent you can be forgiven for running low on ideas for what to pack each day in the kids lunchbox, especially when it comes to keeping it healthy yet appealing! Ideally, a healthy lunchbox will be packed with all five food groups in order to help young bodies grow and get all the energy they need for their busy school day ahead. If you are in need of some guidance when it comes to what is important to consider when packing your child’s lunchbox, this blog may be of some help to you.
1. Wholegrain sandwich, wrap or crackers
Where possible, try to opt for grain or wholemeal varieties. Always try to add a protein rich filling/topping such as egg or lean meat as these will keep the kids fuller for longer as well as offer them important nutrients including iron, zinc and Vitamin B12. Pair the protein with an abundance of fresh vegetables and voila! Alternatively, use wholegrain wraps as a pizza base and top with protein, LOTS of veg and a sprinkle of cheese! Add an ice block to keep fresh, or make the sandwiches the morning of school for those who have time.
2. Nutritious snacks
Active, growing bodies need fuel. Good quality fuel. Many of the processed snacks and muesli bars available are not nutrient dense. However, in order to keep the kids happy and their lunch boxes appealing, it’s important we don’t erase these options completely. Instead, try providing the healthier alternatives for those popular, nutrient-poor foods, for example, whip up a homemade batch of muesli bars packed with fruit, nuts and seeds and swap the packet of potato chips for air popped popcorn or homemade baked sweet potato chips. Try making a batch of healthy blueberry muffins, bliss balls or zucchini slice, dividing it up and freezing each portion. Homemade snacks are the perfect way to know exactly what you’re putting into your child’s body and make for quick and easy additions to any lunchbox!
3. Protein snack
This macronutrient is vital in the school lunchboxes but is often missed out and replaced with extra fruit or more snacks. Protein rich foods including lean meat, eggs, dairy products (milk and cheese, which also help offer calcium for growing bones), beans, nuts and seeds are all fabulous additions to the lunchbox. Protein rich foods are vital for hungry growing bodies and important in helping kids maintain concentration and interaction while at school.
4. All food groups are important
Lunchboxes should contain about one third of a child’s food for the day, therefore, it is so important to ensure they are getting nutrients from all five food groups.
1. Vegetables: Add these in as a snack (with dip or on their own) or as a filling in a sandwich or wrap, the more the merrier!
2. Fruit: Added as a snack on its own or paired with some natural yoghurt.
3. Grains & cereals: We want to choose the wholegrain or multigrain options, such as wraps, bread, rice, pizza base or pasta. These can be added as part of their main lunch and topped/filled with a source of protein and an abundance of fresh veg or as a snack such as crackers or corn thins with cheese. Foods within this group offer fibre, carbohydrates and a wide range of vitamins and minerals into the diet.
4. Meat or meat alternatives: Options such as lean meat, tuna, salmon, lentil patties or tofu. These are all great sources of protein and should not be missed out in the lunchbox. Protein helps growth and development and promote satiety.
5. Dairy and dairy alternatives: Reduced fat milk, natural yoghurt, cheese squares or sticks and calcium-enriched soy or other plant-based milks are a vital addition for growing bodies. Not only are these foods rich in calcium and important for strong, healthy bones, they also provide nutrients such as protein, Vitamin A and iodine!
Water should always be the drink of choice for children. Try to avoid options such as fruit juice, soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and cordials which are all high in sugar and are not everyday drinks for children. Freeze a bottle overnight to help keep lunches cool throughout the day as well as keeping your child hydrated throughout the day.
Lunchboxes are a great way to incorporate new foods for kids to try, however, when the lunchbox arrives home, be sure to check if there is anything that hasn't been eaten and take this into consideration when packing the next lunch. Find out why it wasn’t eaten so you’re aware of whether it was due to disliking the food or for other reasons.
6. Be eco-friendly
Try swapping cling film or snap-lock bags for beeswax wraps and choose reusable sandwich bags. This way the bag comes home each day, can be washed and re-used again the very next day. This eliminates waste completely! Check out LunchSkins for some great lunch box options!
When it comes to the lunchbox itself, many mums swear by bento-style lunchboxes. They come with perfect compartments for everything and will save you from packing small containers
When packing fluids, opt for stainless-steel drink bottles. Not only are the environmentally friendly, but also keep the drinks cool! It's a win win!