Planning your family’s meals for the week ahead is my number one tip – it’s the ultimate lifesaver, budget friendly and will help ensure your child has a healthy lunch box every day. Start by creating a five-day schedule and shop ahead. It’s much easier to assemble a healthy lunch box when you already know what you’re making and have all the ingredients ready.
2. Prep ahead
Batch-make any meals that can be done in advance like hard boiled eggs, veggie sticks, dips, muffins, yogurt pots and soups. By doing this, you can prepare a nutritious lunch box every morning in less than 10 minutes.
3. Avoid processed and packaged foods
Packaged and processed foods are often nutritionally-depleted foods can be high in sugars, trans-fats and additives. Following Tips 1 and 2, will ensure there’s no need to put packaged foods in your child’s lunchbox.
4. Avoid high sugar foods
Did you know, Aussie kids are eating three to four times the World Health Organization’s recommended daily intake of sugar! Too much sugar is not only linked to obesity, but can also affect your child’s behaviour and concentration at school.
Avoiding processed and packaged foods will help to steer clear of hidden sugars, but also keep in mind that fruit juice and dried fruits can contain high amounts of sugars and should therefore be limited as well. Pack a water bottle with floating fruit pieces instead, if your child won’t drink straight-water.
5. Focus on fresh vegetables and fruit
96 per cent of Aussies don’t eat enough veggies! Fresh vegetables and fruit are packed with phytonutrients and crucial to good health. For primary school aged kids, I recommend five servings of colourful vegetables and up to two servings of fruit a day. Try to get as many of these servings into the lunchbox as possible, so that half the battle is won before dinner time.
A serving of vegetable is 75g, which is about half a cup of veggies, or one cup of leafy veggies, one carrot or tomato. One serving of fruit is equal to two small fruits (such as apricots), one medium fruit (such as an apple), or one cup of berries. Arrange them in cure, fun ways using a Bento Box, to get your child’s interest.
6. Include some protein
Protein is not only essential for healthy growth and development but also helps to stabilise blood sugar levels and keeps your child feeling full and satisfied well into their post-lunch lessons.
7. Include some healthy fat
Fat is important for healthy brain growth and development. Including healthy fat in the lunchbox is important for concentration and satiety throughout the day. My recommendations for good sources of fat include eggs, avocados, nuts (if permitted at school), seeds, yoghurt and cold pressed oils such as olive and coconut.
8. Include a probiotic rich food
Evidence shows that beneficial gut bacteria have a positive effect on brain function and immune health. The easiest way to promote healthy gut bacteria is to include a variety of probiotic rich foods into your child’s daily diet. This can include foods such as yoghurt, fermented vegetables and miso soup. I recommend one serving per day.
9. Mix it up for variety
Exposure to a wide variety of food from a young age will help set your child up for a future of healthy and pleasurable eating habits. Offering a variety of foods for lunch helps to provide a wide range of nutrients for your child diet. A great way to avoid monotony is to buy seasonal fresh produce, such as kiwi fruit in winter.
10. Think outside the (lunch) box
Not all lunches have to fit into the confines of a lunch box. For older kids you could pack lunch into a thermos and provide nutrient rich broths, soups and stews.
Jessica Hoskins will spend time teaching the primary school kids at Ermington West Primary School in New South Wales the best way to prepare healthy meals on the school’s brand new Kitchen Kart, donated by local business, RB. Now, Jessica shares her tips for parents to create delicious and healthy kids lunches at home.