Does your child take a packed lunch to school? Are you receiving feedback as a parent that your child is fed up of those ham sandwiches already?! It may be a struggle to keep lunches interesting and tasty without compromising on the health factor. By the end of September, parents usually run out of ideas and need inspiration to compile a more varied school lunchbox.
A Healthy & Balanced Lunchbox
- A complex carbohydrate e.g. wholegrain bread, pitta pockets, rye crackers, a wrap, wholemeal bagel or make a salad base from cooked pasta, noodles or couscous. Rice cakes, breadsticks and oatcakes are other occasional alternatives.
- A dairy product – e.g. yoghurt, cheese sticks/cubes, cottage cheese. You could even include some low sugar custard so they can have fun dipping their fruit.
- A serving of protein-rich food – e.g. lean meat (chicken, ham, turkey slices or leftover roast beef fillings to sandwiches), tinned fish, hard boiled eggs or a snap pot of baked beans. You could try including kidney beans or chickpeas into a pasta salad, or why not make hummus (easy to make using a can of chickpeas) for your child to dip in their veggie sticks.
- At least one serving of fruit – this could be fresh fruit, dried fruit, or tinned fruit in natural juice (drained). If your child doesn’t like fresh fruit, why not grate some apple into a pasta salad. Grapes, clementines, and berries work nicely in packed lunches – invest in some little pots to portion them up and avoid mess.
- At least one serving of vegetable or salad item – this could be salad or vegetables in a sandwich, wrap or bagel, a side salad to accompany the lunch, an addition to a pasta salad, or some pre-prepared carrot, pepper, celery, spring onion and cucumber sticks. Including healthy dips like hummus or low fat cream cheese is a nice option. Tip use sliced meat or lettuce leaves to sandwich sliced tomatoes this preventing soggy sandwiches!
- A drink – it’s best to stick to water or milk. Pure unsweetened fruit juice (not from concentrate) or no added sugar cordial. Fruit juice should not be given neat to under 5’s; it should be diluted as 1 part juice, 10 parts water.
What to Avoid?
- Crisps – even baked crisps are high in fat. Beware of advertising and marketing ploys with taglines such as ’30% less fat’ – crisps are high in fat to start with, so even 30% less will still be high in unhealthy fats.
- Sweets, confectionary – these are high in fat and/or sugar, and will often leave kids climbing the walls in their classrooms after lunch in addition to long-term health consequences of poor dental health and higher risks of childhood obesity.
- Cakes – these are also high in saturated fat and sugar. Why not include some healthy home baking once a week instead? Home made carrot cake, flapjack or banana bread made with part wholemeal flour, oats and rapeseed oil are great for energy on PE days.
- Fizzy drinks – these are acidic and contain lots of sugar. Even the diet varieties contain acids which are harmful to developing teeth.
- Nuts – most schools have a no nut policy, so it’s best to avoid these, as there could be nut allergy sufferers present
- Rice – rice, e.g. cold rice salad should be avoided due to the potential risk of food poisoning.