Lunchbox Inspirations for Back to School
By Guest Dietitian Dr Joanna McMillan
Preparing a lunchbox for your child every school day can feel like Groundhog Day. You feel guilty putting in more or less the same thing, worry over whether it is as nutritious as it should be or perhaps you feel guilty putting in a sugary ‘treat’ food. For most of us, the daily lunchbox creation can be a real chore! To help here are some ideas to make the job easier, more delicious and packed with the good nutrition kids need to be their best.
A Template for a Healthy Lunchbox:
1. Smart carbs fuel kids’ brains and give them the slow release energy they need for the classroom and the playground. Think wholegrains, legumes, whole fruit, milk and/or yoghurt.
Wholegrains includes wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa and other intact grains, but also products made using wholegrains or wholegrain flour. The new Messy Monkeys Popcorn range count as they are made by simply popping wholegrain corn kernels.
2. Ensure a serve or two of protein to help keep hunger pangs at bay and deliver the building blocks they need for growth. Think meat, fish, eggs, legumes, tofu or other soy products and/or dairy. They also get a good protein dose from wholegrains such as bread and pasta.
Dairy foods are important sources of calcium as well as protein. If you can’t or don’t want to give your child dairy foods, then be sure to include a dairy alternative fortified with calcium such as soy milk or yoghurt.
3. Find ways to get a serve or two of veggies into their lunch. By the time kids are 9 years of age they should be enjoying 5 serves a day. It’s tough to get there if lunch is devoid of veggies. Legumes count here too, along with any raw or cooked veggies.
4. Get a few salad veggies into a sandwich or wrap, pop in a container of carrot, celery, cucumber and/or capsicum sticks with a hummus or avocado dip. In winter give them a hot meal in a thermos such as veggie and lentil or bean soup, pasta Bolognese with added grated veggies and beans, or get creative with a veggie and fruit smoothie in an insulated to-go cup.
5. Limit the junk. Of course, kids can have the odd lolly or cupcake, but these foods should not go in the lunchbox. Reserve them for a treat on the weekend or when visiting grandparents for example. Teach them that these are not everyday foods. You can make much healthier versions of muffins, banana bread and cookies using wholegrain flours, legume flours and wholegrains, such as rolled oats or barley. It’s also great to have trusted, nutritious products the kids love in your pantry and that’s where the Messy Monkeys range comes in.
6. Finally, don’t forget a refillable, insulated to keep cool, bottle of water. This is the best drink for kids and one we want them to get used to having as their principal drink.