When you consider that almost half of a child’s food intake for the day is while they are at school, it makes a lot of sense to consider their lunch box as a window of opportunity for nourishment!
Everything in their lunch box should have a purpose and function. Foods with no nutritional benefit, such as sweets and junk food, should be limited. If your child likes to treat themselves, there is always the school canteen or tuck shop at hand.
Giving children a small amount of pocket money, just enough to purchase something small of their choice, provides them a little independence and also helps teach them the joys of how money works.
It is important to set good eating standards early on which will in turn, help our kids make better choices through gentle guidance.
why not involve your kids and make a healthy sweet snack with them on the weekend from time to time. The snacks you made together can be taken to school that week instead of pocket money.
My kids love oat and honey cookies, oat and choc chip cookies, Weetbix cocoa and coconut truffles, fruit and jelly cups, banana and oat muffins, date and apple muffins, banana bread. You can find some great recipes for these and similar on google. For a healthier option, replace sugar with honey where possible.
Children require many macro (protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats) and micro (vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, vitamin C, A, etc.) nutrients throughout the day to keep them alert in class. These nutrients also provide them with a consistent flow of energy and nourish their bodies and brains for optimal learning and growth.
When preparing my children’s lunch box, I always include items that I know my kids will eat, but every now and then I will mix it up with small serves of something new that I’d like them to try. I do inform of this as I explain the importance of just trying the new foods, and with absolutely no pressure.
I do so because I want to avoid getting my kids into the habit of throwing their lunch away, or simply returning it uneaten and wasted. I do want them to enjoy their food!
Some kids like consistency and prefer a similar lunch each day, however, others get bored easily and need variety. Variety is definitely important. Food variety and nutrient variety come hand in hand! However, for kids who are not so keen on the diversity of food, you can make a list together of lunch ideas which they will accept or prefer and expand on from there.
My lunch box breakdown
Morning Tea/Recess: Calcium
· Yoghurt: yoghurt frozen the night before will thaw just in time for morning tea
· Crackers (multigrain if possible) and cheese
· Vegetable sticks with hummus/avocado/tzatziki dip
· Pikelets with fruit/cheese spread
· Home-made fruit muffin or fruit bread (low in sugar), muesli bar or oat slice, pop corn.
· Cheese toasty (wholegrain or wholemeal if possible)
· Mini cheese and olive pizza: there are truly endless possibilities, depending on your child’s food preferences
Fruit Break/Crunch & Sip: vitamin C, vitamins and minerals, fibre and water
· Any fruit that your child loves
· A small container of fruit salad
· Carrot, cucumber and celery sticks
· A bottle of water
Lunch: Iron or calcium
for maximum iron absorption avoid mixing iron containing foods, such as meat/fish/chicken, with calcium-rich foods such as cheese/milk/yoghurt.
· Salad sandwich (slice of cheese with veggies of choices, examples: cucumber, shredded carrot, tomato, lettuce)
· Tuna and veg roll or wrap (drained tuna with vegetables of choice, examples: corn, tomato, lettuce)
· Home-made sausage roll or meat pie (regular or mini). I usually mince and add onion, garlic, mushroom, and a small amount of zucchini to the lean minced meat mixture. This is a good way to get some veggies into fussy eaters and it doesn’t have a noticeable effect on the flavour
· Mini home-made pizza. I make these in a muffin tin. If your kids refuse to eat the usual pizza toppings try frozen carrot, corn and peas with sliced black olives and shredded cheese. Yum!
· Pitta bread pizza. Cheese and olive, corn, or whatever you like and know your child will eat!
· Pasta, regular or rainbow. You can use leftovers from dinner or just add corn or mixed veggies and chicken or tuna
· Rice/noodles. You can also use leftovers from dinner or cook some rice/noodles with mixed frozen veggies and add a protein of choice.
· Fish fingers or home-made chicken nuggets
· Add a corn cob, cucumber/carrot sticks, or a small salad.
· A water bottle is essential daily
· Plain milk or reduced sugar flavoured milk (sometimes)
· Small 100% fruit juice
· Fruit and veg juice