Supporting your child’s brain and body at school goes hand in hand with a healthy lunch box. Children need food that will help them to focus and learn and at the same time have energy for various sports and activities. Be sure to add variety, and different colours ensure that all their nutritional needs are met and at the same time it is interesting enough so they don’t trade with their friends for unhealthy versions. Protein is important to combine with whole food carbohydrates so that glucose is slowly released to the brain through the day and concentration and mood is maintained. Food that’s highly processed and full of ingredients like colourants, sweeteners and other chemicals are far too over-stimulating for children’s brains and bodies.
GUIDELINES TO PACKING A HEALTHY LUNCHBOX
- Plan lunchboxes the night before to avoid the morning rush which leads to you inevitably packing convenient foods instead of a healthier alternative which might need more preparation time.
- Lunch boxes with compartments to separate the different foods are very handy. With young children particularly it’s all about presentation. Fruit and veggies cut into smaller pieces are more likely to be eaten. Cookie cutters can be useful for cutting sandwiches into smaller fun shapes.
- Give your child healthy choices of what they would like packed to ensure they will eat at school and involve them in packing their own lunch because they take pride in what they prepare themselves.
- Breaks are generally 20 minutes long, during which time a child (particularly boys) will want to run around and play too. Pack meals without lots of packaging and needing of utensils and are easy to eat while walking around.
- Some children are picky eaters and may want to eat similar foods everyday, and as long as it is nutritionally balanced lunch, it is fine. Some children may need more variety.
- A small thermos flask can keep soup warm during the winter months.
- Water should be the only drink accompanying the lunchbox. To encourage drinking enough water throughout the day, perhaps you can make it more interesting by adding, cucumbers/lemons/cut up pieces of fruit or herbs to add flavour.
Choose from each of these groups:
Proteins – hard boiled eggs/Biltong/Chicken kebabs or leftovers from the night before/ any meat leftover from dinner/nuts and seeds/nut butters/white cheese.
Fruit – Berries/grapes/bananas/pineapple pieces/watermelon cubes and any other fruit.
Vegetables – Cherry tomatoes/sliced cucumbers/sliced yellow or red bell peppers/carrots/sugar snap peas/ celery sticks and any other raw veg your child might like.
Whole carbs – Bread should be of the highest quality possible made from wholegrain and sandwiches must include a protein to ensure sustained blood sugar balance.
Get creative to make lunchboxes more interesting:
- Hummus or other dips for their veggies
- Cucumber sushi rolls
- Bread that has been flattened with a rolling pin and made into rolled up sandwiches and cut like sushi rolls
- Apple or bananas with 2 tablespoons of any nut butter or tahini and sprinkled with coconut flakes and cinnamon
- Plain Greek yogurt with nuts and seeds a little honey or berries
- Olives with crackers
- Leftover meat wrapped in lettuce with a little mustard or mayo
- Healthy trail mix
- Devilled eggs
- Roasted chickpeas with spices of your choice
- Dehydrated fruit sprinkled with cinnamon
Don’t forget to add a little motivational note or funny quote in their lunchbox anytime.
By: Desi Horsman, clinical nutritionist, speaker, wellness expert