School’s In: Lunchbox lessons

During a long day at school, little brains work overtime concentrating on learning, playing and all the joys of youth. To keep them full of energy all day, your children need a healthy lunchbox full of snacks and a balanced lunch.

Every parent wants to do what’s best for their child but as life gets busy, packing a nutritious lunch (for both the children and parents!) can be forgotten in the rush to get everyone out the door on time.

However a healthy lunchbox doesn’t need to be time consuming or complicated. Let’s take a fresh look at lunchboxes and what should – and shouldn’t – go in them.

Essential lunchbox components

A balanced lunchbox contains a little from each of the main food groups.

Protein and dairy to help fill your kids up, keeping them feeling satisfied for longer; carbohydrates to provide energy for running, thinking and playing; and plenty of fruits and vegetables to provide fibre and energy. Also encourage your children to stay well-hydrated by providing easily accessible drinks – water and milk make good choices.

Try some of these tasty lunchbox ideas:

  • Cheese slices or cubes
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Wholemeal sandwiches with lean meat and salad
  • Grilled chicken pieces
  • Dried fruit
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Pasta salad with low-fat dressing
  • Wraps filled with lean meat and salad
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Whole fruit, such as bananas, strawberries, watermelon, kiwi fruit, pears
  • Fruit salad tubs
  • Vegetable sticks, such as red capsicum, carrot, celery, baby corn
  • Salads with low-fat dressings – add tuna, salmon or cold meat slices for a more filling lunch
  • Salsa or hummus, with vegetable sticks or crackers
  • Milk, flavoured (low-sugar) or plain
  • Yoghurt tubs

Helpful tips to make life simpler

  • Use an insulated bag or add a frozen drink or ice pack to your child’s lunchbox to keep food cool and safe from harmful bacteria.
  • Involve your child when packing their lunchbox. They’re more likely to eat their lunch if they’ve been involved in choosing what’s packed.
  • Save precious time in the mornings by pre-packing handfuls of dried fruits, crackers and other healthy snacks in small zip-lock bags – these are so easy to pop into lunchboxes.
  • Present foods in an interesting shape or in individual containers to make everyday foods seem more appealing.
  • If time is tight in the mornings, try making lunches the night before and storing in the fridge to grab-and-go.
  • Avoid sugar-laden, high-fat snacks. Often cleverly disguised as “healthy” snacks, these foods contribute little to your child’s nutritional needs – eg. some protein bars.
  • Treats, such as chips, chocolate and lollies, are okay on occasion, but aim for healthier treats such as frozen grapes, yoghurt, dried fruits, ‘ants on a log’ (celery filled with cream cheese topped with currants) and high-fibre muffins on a daily basis.
  • If your school has a nut-free policy, protect the children with life-threatening nut allergies and avoid packing peanuts, walnuts, Nutella, peanut butter, and any other nut products in lunchboxes.

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