Do you struggle to pack a healthy lunchbox for yourself and/or your kids? Creating a healthy lunch box is no small feat, especially if you're dealing with fussy eaters, unusual eating habits or allergies.
Our eating habits as adults are instilled in us from a young age. Given children eat on average 2,600 lunch box meals during their school years, getting the lunchbox contents right is essential to build the foundations of a healthy, balanced diet. That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips that can help to make every lunchbox healthier and more interesting (note: these tips apply to children and adults!).
1. GO, GO, GO with wholegrains
Have you tried to get your kids to eat wholegrain bread with little success? If this is the case, we suggest slowly transitioning them by packing a ‘zebra’ sandwich - one piece of white bread with one piece of wholemeal or wholegrain bread. Carbohydrates are essential in every lunchbox as they are the body’s main source of fuel. However, it’s important to make smart choices when it comes to carbs as the type of carbohydrates you include is what matters! Wholegrain, high fibre varieties digest more slowly in the body compared to white varieties, which will help to keep your child feeling fuller for longer and more focused after lunch.
2. Swap the snacks
Do you sometimes feel pressured by your kids to include sweets in their lunchbox? You’re not alone. Fortunately, there’s alternative snack options that can satisfy cravings for sweet and salty foods without the added nasties. Rather than chips, offer plain, unsalted popcorn. Instead of cake or unhealthy muffins, whip up a batch of wholemeal strawberry, banana and coconut muffins. They’re packed with fibre and lower in sugar than other packaged sweet snacks which means they won’t cause spikes in blood sugar and will help to stabilise mood and concentration throughout the day.
3. Include some protein
Whilst fruits and veggies are so important for a healthy lunch box, protein should never be overlooked! Protein foods are excellent sources of iron and zinc, which your little human needs for healthy growth, immunity and optimal brain power. Including protein in your child’s lunch box will help them beat the 3pm slump and prevent them coming home from school craving high energy, sugar-laden snacks. Lunch-box ready protein ideas:
- turkey or chicken slices on a sandwich
- a hard-boiled egg,
- hummus or peanut butter* with veggie sticks
- a small tub of yoghurt.
*check your child’s school policy on nuts before packing peanut butter in their lunch box.
Can you believe the human body is made up of more than 50% water?! When it comes to lunchbox drinks, aim for water as your go-to option. Juices, sports drinks, energy drinks and soft drinks are jam-packed with what we like to call ‘empty calories’. Their high sugar content and low nutritional value make them an energy-dense but nutrient poor option, and apart from their consumption being linked to an increased risk of an array of metabolic disorders, all of that sugar is terrible for your teeth. We understand that water is not always the most enticing option for kids, so here are a few tips:
- Try to freeze a water bottle so they have a nice cool drink come lunch time (and it doubles as an ice pack to keep their lunch fresh in the summer!).
- Naturally flavour the water by adding fresh fruit – mixed berries, lemon or lime and mint all work a treat!
5. Get creative
If what’s inside your child’s lunchbox doesn’t look good, your chances of getting them to eat it are slim. A child can be exposed to a food up to 20 times before they accept it or like it, so it’s really important to be creative and give your children the same food in many different varieties. Here are some ideas:
- Capsicum sticks with hummus
- Baked capsicums filled with mince and rice
- A low fat capsicum dip with veggie sticks
- Roasted capsicums as part of sandwich
Other ways to spark their interest in food is to use fun colours; you can make a rainbow in their lunchbox with red cherry tomatoes, orange rockmelon, yellow capsicums, green broccoli, blueberries and purple carrots, or try cutting foods into interesting shapes.