The School Lunchbox Easy Guide….
3rd September 2013
As it’s that time of year again I thought it might a good idea to revisit this post….. So the new school year is about to begin and parents across the land groan at the thought of making the dreaded packed lunch every evening! Not only do parents have to contend with the changing tastes and whims of their little ones but these days there is even more pressure to make sure that a lunchbox provides the right nutritional balance. Obesity, hyperactivity, nutrient deficiencies and other diet related conditions are all on the increase as we have been lured towards easy processed food options that our children seem to love. You might also have to contend with new ‘lunchbox rules’ introduced by health conscious school governing bodies. So here is my start of term guide to packing a lunch that your children will love and so will your nutritionist! No one wants a squashed lunch…. Let’s start with the basics – what is this gastronomic delight going to be carried in? Now back in my day it was all about the plastic lunchbox with a character decorating the front, and whilst these are still available, the manufacturers have cottoned on to the need for more purpose designed options. My current favourites are made by Sistema and aside from being BPA free are available at very reasonable prices from places such as Asda, Lakeland. John Lewis, Tesco. They even sell little dressing/sauce pots which are perfect for allowing kids to ‘build’ their own lunch. But if you take a look about you’ll find something that will work for you. These boxes, if they don’t already contain an integrated cooling block, can be added to an insulated bag to really keep things nice and cool in warm weather. Equally you could go for a soup thermos which will keep soups and other warm meals toasty warm until lunch – YUM! Getting the balance right… A balanced lunchbox (including a snack for break time) should contain protein (around 28.3g/day aged 7-10), healthy fats, starchy carbohydrates, fibre and vitamins and not forgetting something to hydrate. The main event – something starchy with protein for energy and growth 5-a-day – fruits, veg & salad packed full of essential vitamins and minerals Growing bones – think calcium from dairy or nuts/seeds Snacks – balanced and healthy for a mid-morning energy/concentration boost Drinks – to maintain concentration and help with detoxification Lunchspiration… To set you on your way here’s a full week of lunchbox ideas. Remember to adjust portion sizes depending on your child’s age, and obviously substitute any ingredients that your child is intolerant/allergic to. And don’t write something off because you think your child won’t like it – many children are put off by colour/texture/look of something – so if it looks interesting you may well sneak it past them! And remember tastes change so keep trying new things. There’s also nothing wrong with a sandwich but it’s good to keep up variety.
|Menu 1Water or diluted fruit juiceOatcakes, cherry tomatoes, peppers and hummusPlain natural yoghurt with frozen berriesCashew nuts & raisins Snack – Apple & peanut butter slices||Menu 2Water or diluted fruit juiceBuild your own chicken, guacamole, pepper & cucumber wrapHomemade carrot cakeSliced apple Snack – edamame beans in pods|
|Menu 3Water or diluted fruit juicePasta salad (wholemeal and tricolor pasta) with a cream cheese, sweetcorn and tunaPlain yoghurt with granola sprinklesFruit salad Snack – plain popcorn dusted with cinnamon||Menu 4Water or diluted fruit juiceToasted pitta triangles with carrots and hummusCheese cubes and cherry tomatoesBanana Snack – Pecan nuts and dried fruit|
|Menu 5Mini Pitta pizzas (with veggie topping)Mini salad with chopped apples and a dressing on the sideStrawberries, blueberries and raspberriesSnack – homemade flapjack with hidden nuts & seeds|
Hydration & fruit juice… So I think we’re all aware of how important it is to keep our bodies hydrated and the same goes for children. Unfortunately there is a lot of emphasis on flavoured drinks when it comes to children and the marketing man has led us up the garden path by implying that these conveniently packaged fruit juices (insert a brand of your choice) are beneficial to health because they contain ‘real fruit’. Now I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty about all of this but safe to say water is by far the best option for hydration. Even fresh juices should not be consumed regularly in large amounts (it’s still sugar even though it’s from a fruit!). But if you are struggling to get your kiddies to sip on water you could always try adding slices of orange, lemon, lime, cucumber or mint to the bottle or even mixing some fresh juice with water and gradually reducing the strength over the weeks. You can also try sparkling water for some extra interest. And I would advise avoiding artificial sweeteners like the plague both for adults and children – read the labels and you’ll see how often they are used in the ‘healthy’ options. Other tips…
- Make lunchboxes at the same time you’re making dinner – without fail!
- Print of a menu for each day to put in the lunchbox
- Keep a record of each week’s lunches so that you have something to go back to when inspiration is lacking!
- Sit down at a weekend with your kids and let them help design some lunches – keeping them involved makes them more likely to eat what you give them and fosters a healthy interest in good food.
- Get your kids to rate the food in the lunchbox
- Make it interesting – maintain variation across the week/cut food into shapes using cutters/chop up fruit and make a salad etc.
So I hope this has given you some ideas as to what to do for the coming year. Please let me know how you get on and share your ideas by posting your pictures and thoughts on the I Love Greens Facebook and Twitter pages. I might even give a prize to the most inventive (and healthy) ideas! If you would like more tailored advice regarding your child’s nutrition, eating habits or other health conditions that may be assisted through diet please get in touch ilovegreens