With school starting tomorrow, it’s time to get back into the swing of creating nutritious but yummy school lunch boxes for my two children.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I really enjoy the school holidays and the break from preparing school lunches! So it always takes me a little time to get back into it!
I know this can be a daunting task for many parents especially if you have children who are fussy eaters or simply change their mind about their favourite foods each day (mine sometimes do).
Discussing the healthy options on offer, planning and preparing food in advance are the three things that help me and my children stay on track with school lunches.
In my experience, discussing healthy options and getting your children involved in the decision about their lunch choices means they are more likely to eat the prepared food and enjoy it!
By planning, I mean write down a menu or daily options, based on your discussions with your children, before the school week starts. This makes it easier to do all the shopping at once and have the required ingredients in the pantry or fridge.
I always try to set aside a few hours on the weekend to prepare and cook some food in advance. I usually make savoury muffins, meatballs and other items that can be frozen and easily popped into the lunch box.
It is important to offer children a wide variety of fresh, seasonal whole foods (that means unprocessed and not from a packet) to develop their palate and ensure they are eating foods that provide the nutrients they need to grow and learn. Here is a quick guide on what elements should go into a healthy lunch box each day.
1. Plant foods like carrots, capsicum, celery, cucumber, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, salad vegetables, leafy greens, herbs such as parsley and basil, and fruit such as apples, strawberries, bananas, watermelon, oranges, kiwi fruit, rockmelon etc
2. Quality protein foods from either animal or plant sources such as meat, fish, nuts, seeds and legumes, and dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. Examples of these foods include homemade meat balls, leftover roast beef, poached chicken, tinned fish, hummus, bean or lentil dips, and nut spread (if allowed in the school).
3. A complex carbohydrate like whole grain bread or wrap, whole grain pasta, quinoa, cracked wheat/bulgur wheat or brown rice.
4. A source of healthy fats, for example avocado, hummus, seeds, a seed spread, quality yoghurt (no added sugar) or olive oil (as a salad dressing).
5. Plenty of water – at least a 600ml bottle in their lunch box! There is no need for fruit juice or any other drinks.