Nutrition is the backbone of your child’s performance at school. It might come as a surprise, but the right diet can bring significant advantages to the learning process. While you have full control of the breakfast your kid gets before rushing off to school, the same cannot be said about lunch. Opting for a packed lunch instead of one from the school cafeteria is a smart move. Some schools don’t offer on-site cafeterias, so it’s even more important that you prepare a healthy lunch for your kids.
A healthy lunch helps your child concentrate and stay full of energy throughout the school day. But in the rush to get the kids ready and out of the house in the morning, it can be hard to come up with inspiring and nutritious lunch ideas.
These seven simple ideas will help you prepare something healthy and tasty your kid will love, and hopefully ensure they come back with empty lunchboxes!
Keep The Food Groups In Mind
Make sure your children’s packed lunch encompasses all of the major food groups. Their lunch should include a good range of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, a source of dairy (milk, cheese or yogurt) and a source of protein (lean meats, tofu, nuts, legumes or fish). Keeping the food groups in mind ensures that you prepare nutritious meals, but also prevents you from filling their lunch with fatty or sugary foods. By staying educated about healthy eating you can ensure your school kid gets the nutrients they need to sustain themselves for a day at school.
2. Involve Your Child In Lunch Preparation
Letting your children help in the preparation of their lunchboxes gives them an opportunity to learn about healthy eating. The more informed they are regarding food and nutrition, the more likely they are to make healthier choices. Write a shopping list together so that they can learn about different ingredients, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables. Have them help chopping fruit or packing up their lunch so they can get excited about healthy eating. Make it into an artistic exercise by combing colorful fruit and veggies into exciting mixes. Let your child play with food and create their own combinations.
3. Avoid Processed Snacks
While it’s fine to treat your kids every now and then, filling their lunch box with sugary sweets or salty snacks means they’ll pick these over the healthier options in their lunchbox. Instead, make sure they’re having nutritious pre-packaged snacks that will give them the longer-lasting energy they need. Dried fruits and nuts, veggies with dip, granola and superfood bars and whole fruits are all good options. If you’re planning to buy snacks at the grocery store, remember to check the ingredient list – granola bards may looks healthy, but often contain copious amounts of sugar that harms the cognitive process required for learning. Check the ingredients list when buying snacks at the supermarket – the shorter the list, the less processed the snack.
4. Make Things Easy to Eat
While it can be time-consuming, making your kid’s lunch more convenient to eat means they’re more likely to eat it and not let their food go to waste. Try chopping hard-to-eat fruit and veg into smaller pieces and keeping them in a separate tupperware container. Pick fruits that travel well, like oranges, apples and pineapples and avoid fruits like berries, peaches and melon that can get squishy. Divide up sandwiches and wraps, so they don’t have to be eaten all at once. Homemade dips can be one way of sneaking veggies into your kid’s lunchbox without them realising.
5. Mix Things Up
Just like adults, kids also get bored eating the same thing everyday. You can keep their lunchbox diverse by changing up sandwich fillings or using different types of bread. Different colours and textures help kids get excited about an otherwise ordinary sandwich. Adding grated carrot or beetroot, snowpeas, capsicum and other vibrant veggies to a salad, sandwich or wrap can make lunchtime both nutritious and fun for your kids.
6. Turn Leftovers Into Lunch
While some kids may not be able to heat up their lunch at school, plenty of leftovers can be eaten cold and used in school lunches. Adding a can of tuna or hard-boiled egg with veggies to leftover pasta or rice can make for a filling salad the next day and add a bit more variety than a sandwich. A midweek roast makes for a great sandwich later in the week! Don’t let the food at your household go to waste and use to for preparing delicious lunchbozes your kids can take to school.
7. Hydration Is Key
Running around at lunch means kids can get dehydrated easily. Make sure to pack a reusable water bottle with their lunches so they can drink water throughout the day and at break times. Staying hydrated helps their metabolism and means they’re less likely to come home hungry and tired, begging for sugar!
Although it can sometimes be hard to plan and prepare school lunches on a busy weekday morning, your kids will reap the benefits of it. A healthy and nutritious lunch lets them make the most of the school day.
8. Choose the right snack bar
It’s smart to include a small snack in your child’s lunchbox. That way, you can be sure that they won’t be trading fresh fruit for prepackaged snacks. There are hundreds of snack bars on the market, but how do you know which snack bar in the healthiest option? In general, bars that contain less than 400 kJ per serving are relatively low in calories. Make sure that the bar contains some dietary fiber or is based on wholegrain. Ideally, the bar should include more than 4 g of fiber per 100 g of the product.