With school, sports, play time and extra-curricular activities on their agenda, kids need the right kind of fuel to tackle the day. They have to eat often, and eat well – and that’s where you come in. When you’re packing your tiny human’s lunchbox, it’s important to make sure it’s nutritionally balanced. This will not only keep their energy levels up, but it’ll boost memory, improve immunity, support growth and set them up with good eating habits for life.
So, here’s your guide to a healthy lunchbox (and one the other kids – and teachers – will be jealous of!).
Since kids are so active, it’s essential they consume enough protein. Thanks to the calcium, iron and magnesium, protein releases energy slowly but steadily throughout the day, so they can go from books to ballet without stopping. The best way to include protein in their lunch is in sandwich form – think leftover chicken, turkey, salmon, lean ham or even nut butter (if it’s allowed at school). The leaner, the better. For bonus protein, also pop a hard-boiled egg or a tub of Greek yoghurt in the lunchbox. That’ll help to meet their daily dairy requirements, too.
Ideally, your little one should be eating five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit a day. That may sound like a lot, but it’s surprisingly easy to sneak the good stuff into their lunchbox. Trust us! As for fruit, choose no-fuss, less-mess options like grapes, bananas, apples, strawberries or watermelon slices. Fruit cups or salads are great because they appeal to kids’ senses. But if you don’t have time to make those, that’s fine – just be sure to mix up the fruit regularly, as most kids get bored pretty quickly and the last thing you want is for them to throw healthy food out. Veggie-wise, stuff that sandwich with lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Then, cut up carrot and celery sticks and serve with a little tzatziki or hummus. Your child will have so much fun dipping and tantalising their tastebuds, they won’t even notice they’re doing their body (and mind) a world of good!
Carbs are crucial for energy, so make the most of their nutritional value. Ditch white pasta, rice and bread and opt for wholegrains, rye and spelt sources. If your family is new to the sprouted bread thing, do it slowly – research shows that kids respond better to healthy changes when they’re done gradually. Of course, creativity is key, especially if your kids are picky or fidgety eaters. So along with the ‘obvious’ carbs like bread and pasta, play around with grainy crackers and air-popped popcorn.
Skip the processed chips, cookies and chocolates and send your kid to school with a snack that will lift their energy, not cause it to crash and burn ten minutes later. Look for snacks that are low-GI and protein-rich, such as unsalted nuts or apple slices smeared with cottage cheese. Or do as we do, and throw in The Happy Snack Company’s Roasted FAV-VA BEANS. Made with Australian broad beans, these power packs of goodness are free from gluten, nuts and artificial colours and preservatives. They’re slightly spicy and just the right amount of crunchy, making snack time super satisfying. We won’t blame you if you add a pack to your own lunchbox…
Finally, ditch the poppers and soft drinks and include plenty of water. If your kid doesn’t drink enough water, try freezing it and adding some cut up fruit so it’s refreshing, or letting them pick a pretty bottle.
What do you pack in your child’s lunchbox to make it nutritionally balanced?