As the first few weeks of the school year get underway, the school lunchbox saga begins again. I’m sure you’ve been inundated with advice to create lunchboxes that are ‘nude’, free?from potential allergens and healthy -? while also trying to make them taste good!
On top of this you’re probably aware that childhood obesity is at an all time high and what kids eat at school is a significant contributor to this. Our philosophy around food for kids is all about inclusion (not exclusion). We believe in eating healthy most of the time, but that it is also perfectly ok to include a few treats in the lunchbox every now and then. We do not believe any foods should be off limits and this is a really important message to send to young children who are developing their food and eating habits.
Building a healthy lunchbox that your child will actually eat is no small feat, especially when you might be packing up to 200 lunchboxes each year (and that’s for just one child). This is why we have put together some quick and simple lunchbox tips and tricks that will keep you sane and your kids healthy for the year ahead!
1. Little hands need little serves and containers
You may be familiar with the range of bento style lunchboxes that have slowly been making their way into the market. Packing school lunches into compartmentalised lunchboxes or in an assortment of little containers can make it easier for children as they can choose to eat one thing at a time. Using compartmentalised lunchboxes and containers will also help you to cut down on?packaging and prevent the food from being squished (no one likes squashed grapes!) Primary school kids typically have smaller tummies, so smaller meals and snacks that are packed with nutrition are idealchoices. Kids love bite size foods, so try and keep things small and tidy to make it as easy as possible for them.
2. Get your kids involved
Ask your child to list their top 10 sandwich fillings. This will help you if you are stuck one morning and need to make something in a hurry. Always try and have a variety of fruit and vegetables available at home and let them pick which ones they would like included in their lunchbox. This way they have been involved in the decision making process and are more likely to eat what?s inside. Life is busy so try to make the most of any spare time to get prepared ? boil eggs, chop up veggies, make bliss balls beforehand? this will help reduce the time you need for food prep in the morning rush. Kids love getting involved in the kitchen, so hand over appropriate jobs to them,
3. Choose smart snacks
Children tend to have smaller appetites and fill up easily. Snacks can make up a valuable part of their daily nutritional requirement. Keep in mind that offering your child processed, sugary snacks that contain minimal fibre and protein are going to spike their blood sugar levels leaving them feeling tired and unable to concentrate in class. Pack smart snacks such as fresh fruit, veggie sticks, cheese and wholegrain crackers, air-popped popcorn, yoghurt, homemade fruit or veggie muffins and boiled eggs. Here are some tips for weaning your kids off junk foods.
4. Offer water as the drink
Water should be the primary drink of choice for children. In summer, you can freeze your child?s water bottles, which will also help to keep their food fresh and cold. You can also jazz up water but adding pieces of fruit or vegetables to make it look attractive and to give it a flavour pop. Try and limit the amount of fruit juice that you give your children. Whole fruit is a great source of fibre and is essential for a healthy digestive system, however, fruit juice often contains very little fibre and more sugar, therefore fruit juice should not regularly be a replacement for fresh fruit. If you child is going to have juice, opt for vegetable juices with a small amount of fruit added.
5. Mix it up
A sandwich can be an easy throw together option for the school lunchbox but it is important to mix it up so that your child stays interested. Try wraps, frittatas or even pack leftovers in a cold lunchbox. If you are looking for some different options like Healthy Fried Rice, Pasta Salads or even a child friendly Poke Bowl.
Anna and Alex are the Accredited Practising Dietitians behind The Biting Truth. The Biting Truth?s mission is to empower individuals with the knowledge and confidence to make better health and food choices. They use innovative techniques to translate complex science into practical information.