Having a truly nutrient-packed lunch can help children focus and learn at school. It’s important to include carbohydrates, protein, fruits and vegetables and also healthy fats. Here is some great lunch box ideas from our registered dieticians to get you started: Pinwheel Sandwiches, Hummus Stuffed Pitta Bread, Chicken and Avocado Salad, Boiled Eggs and a Square of Chocolate.
Adding lean proteins to lunch boxes helps kids stay full and provides satiety. They also help kids maintain their focus and alertness throughout the day. Proteins are found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, soy, nuts and legumes (such as chickpeas and black beans).
Choose grilled chicken breast or sliced rotisserie chicken, turkey meatballs or burgers, hard-boiled eggs, hummus and guacamole, roasted chickpeas, nut butters and yoghurt with fruit. Be sure to avoid processed meats like ham and pastrami, which are typically high in sodium.
Beverages can be an important part of a healthy lunch box as they can quench thirst, enhance taste and complement a meal. Opt for beverages that are low in sugar and/or high in calcium to support bone health. Insulated bags and containers are a good way to regulate the temperature of drinks and prevent spills or leakage. Avoid sugary sodas and energy drinks that are high in added sugar and/or caffeine as they can cause energy crashes.
As a source of vitamins and minerals, vegetables are an essential part of any healthy lunch box. They also add color and crunch to a meal, and children enjoy visually appealing food.
Consider packing a variety of veggie sticks, like carrots, celery, peppers, and cucumber, in addition to leafy greens and tomatoes. You can include a dip or sauce to make the veggies more appetising for kids. Just be mindful of the calories as some sauces can be high in sodium and fat.
In addition to these foods, be sure to include beverages and desserts that are low in added sugars and fats. It’s a good idea to include water or unsweetened fruit juice to keep kids hydrated. You can also include a reusable bottle of milk, which is an important source of protein and calcium. Or, try a plant-based alternative to milk (like soy or almond).
Children need a range of healthy foods in their lunch box to support growth, development and maintain energy levels through the day. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains and protein-rich meats are important for this.
Choose fruits that are easy to pack and keep well at room temperature – for example, clementine, small bunches of grapes or slices of banana. If packing canned fruit, choose varieties packed in water or natural juices (not syrup) such as pineapple tidbits, mandarin oranges, fruit mixes and applesauce.
Avoid adding high-sugar treats to your child’s lunchbox, such as cakes and biscuits or high-salt snacks like packets of chips. Instead, consider adding a low-fat dip or some grated carrot or celery sticks with a piece of cheese, or a wholemeal wrap with chicken breast and grated carrot or cucumber and lettuce.
Don’t forget to include a glass of milk or plain water in your child’s lunchbox. Juices, soft drinks and cordial should be limited as they add extra kilojoules and sugar to the diet and can promote sweet preference in kids.
There are many labels and claims on food packaging related to whole grain content, but some of them are misleading. To find the best choice, look for “whole grains” or “100% whole wheat” on the ingredient label and ensure that the grain is listed as one of the first three ingredients. Whole grains provide the body with heart-healthy soluble fiber, important micronutrients, and phytochemicals. They offer a better balance of energy and help reduce the inflammation linked to chronic health conditions.
Try to include at least three servings of whole grains in your child’s lunch box each day. Try whole wheat or rye bread, brown rice, or quinoa pasta. You can also pack a whole-grain granola bar or whole wheat crackers or pretzels. Milk and/or cheese is another good source of protein and calcium for children. Be sure to pack these foods in an insulated lunch box to prevent spoiling.
By the time recess comes around breakfast will have worn off and kids will need real sustained energy from protein and healthy fats to keep them going until lunch. Try packing a hard-boiled egg and wholegrain bagel, roast dinner rice slice, tuna salad and vegetable sticks with hummus, a baked falafel and pita, natural yoghurt stirred through frozen fruit or even a mini crust less quiche.
Choose foods that are low in saturated fat and Tran’s fat, and are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Choosing lower-sugar foods also helps reduce the chance of a sugar crash in children and promotes good dental health.
Getting children involved in the planning and preparation of their lunch boxes is a great way to introduce them to healthier foods. They will be more likely to eat what they helped make! It is important to include a drink in the lunch box and ideally this should be milk or water.
The foods you pack your kids’ lunches are the ones they will end up eating, so it’s important to choose foods that your children like and will eat. Also, try to avoid foods and beverages that can cause dental problems and be a source of dehydration.
Make half of your child’s plate fruits and vegetables, a quarter grains and one quarter lean protein. Include a small circle of dairy on the plate, such as low fat milk or yogurt. Mumma Life is a new tiffin box guide designed to help people better understand the food groups and make healthier choices. It is a visual representation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and is believed to be simpler than its predecessor, the Food Pyramid. However, it is not clear what a “healthy” choice in each of the categories looks like, so it may be difficult for consumers to make specific food choices.