When children head off to school, they are away from the family home for at least 6 hours, sometimes more. During this time, your kids need to be provided with essential nutrients and energy for them to learn, grow and play. And that is the reason why the “lunch box” is so handy. Preparing the lunch box can be a daunting prospect for parents.
Incorporating a healthy habit
Having a bit of a plan can ease the burden and satisfy even the fussiest eaters. Children like to snack, so filling the lunch box with a variety of food items will encourage them to eat and lead them toward a balanced diet. Preparing the lunch box at home will set a good example for your little one. Your kid will begin to learn what types of food are considered healthy and what they need to eat to get through their day.
1. Prepping up a “lunch box” generates a healthy relationship with food right from childhood. This will set up your child’s eating behaviour and set a pattern of eating healthy and nutritional food during their adult life.
2. A school-aged kid learns quickly and is easily influenced by family and friends. Generally, they want to do the right thing and love to be praised for it. So with this in mind, packing a healthy lunch box can become a great learning tool.
3. Get your child involved, let them help prepare the food, and decide what goes into their lunch box. They will be more likely to enjoy what they are eating if they play a role in packing it.
4. With childhood obesity on the rise, it is vital to help your little one make the right food choices. A healthy, well-balanced diet will put your child on the path to reaching their full potential and boost their immune system to ward off illness. The school day is long, and nutritious food enables them to concentrate and stay focused in the classroom while having energy for playtime.
5. Always start the day with a healthy breakfast, and follow that up with a healthy lunch box. Your baby will learn to eat what is familiar, and in time they will become used to the healthy lunch box and look forward to it.
Tackling adolescent diet
As your child moves through the school year, they gain independence, have pocket money to spend, attend parties and will take visits to the canteen. As a parent, you want them to reach the stage where they are confident to make healthy choices on their own and be aware of the foods that are considered special occasion treats like Bakingo cakes.
What to put in the box?
The items you choose should be simple, easy to prepare, easy to eat, and stored well in a lunch box. Variety and colour will help to avoid a boring lunch box. If we think of the lunch box as four separate areas, it is easy to cover all the food groups and obtain a balanced diet.
- 1 serve sandwich or roll with filling (see below for filling ideas)
- 2 serves fruit and vegetables
- 1 serve savoury snack
- 1 serve sweet snack
Some ideas for each section:
Now here we are about to put in some ideas that you can take an active interest in and help prep the lunch for your kids.
Ideas for lunchtime fillings: tuna, chicken, ham, cheese, egg, avocado, spreads, salad items fruit and vegetables: apple, pear, orange, nectarine, grapes, berries, banana, tinned fruit, snow peas, green beans, carrot and celery sticks, capsicum sliced cherry tomatoes, cucumber rings, lettuce leaves, corn cob sandwich or roll with filling.
For the carbohydrates portion of the meal, you can select from 2 slices of whole grain bread, 1 whole grain roll of lavash flatbread bread stick with savoury bread twists, and 1 pita bread.
As for the savoury snack: rice crackers corn thins and vegemite dry biscuits.
Among the nuts: cashews, almonds, cheese sticks or slices of popcorn (air popped) grilled pizza muffins
Sweet snack: fruit muffin hot cross bun homemade cupcake fruit bread. Send cake to Mumbai to your home and pack it up with some fruits on the sides so that it is well balanced in the nutrition quota. It is all about balance, and the occasional treat is not going to do any harm.
Now for the dried fruit: sultanas, apricots, oat based biscuit or scone.
- Let your little one prepare a list of the foods they enjoy and would like to see in their lunch box. If unhealthy items appear on the list, explain why they are and come up with a healthy alternative. Make a substitute you both agree on.
- Preparing the lunch box the night before is an excellent time-saving technique.
- Bake snacks such as muffins, scones and pikelets in bulk and freeze.
- Plan ahead! Think about the lunches you will be preparing for the upcoming week. Make a list and buy the ingredients when you do your weekly shopping.
- Hot weather tips: vegemite, jam, and peanut spreads perform well in the heat. Best to pack a small ice pack into the lunch bag to keep food items safe in warmer weather.
- Drinks: water, milk and fruit juice diluted with water are the best choices. If your kid prefers sugary drinks, now is the time to introduce a healthy alternative. They will eventually drink what is offered to them. It is up to the parent to explain the positives of water, milk and diluted fruit juice.
So as you can see, there are multiple nutritional options that can be healthy as well as tasty. The key to winning your little one’s heart with nutritionally healthy food is by ensuring it looks appealing. Visually stimulating food encourages children to take an active interest and urges them to develop a healthy relationship with food, which will last them a lifetime!