Are you getting your little one(s) ready for the new school year? Does the idea of giving them a healthy and filling lunch make you a little nervous? Worry not, as we have compiled a guide for you to navigate the school lunch missions with ease.
Prep Well In Advance
The best preparation is early preparation, and when it comes to creating a wholesome lunch for your little one(s), you always want to stay on top of your game. Things such as fresh fruit or pasta salad with the kids’ favourite vegetables and dressing can be a nice way to get them to start eating healthy while saving you time as you can prepare the week’s meals well in advance. You can store the lunch food in plastic containers and refrigerate them to keep them fresh for longer.
Get The Kids Involved
Research shows that prepping meals also creates opportunities for your kids to get involved in making their own lunches, says Samantha Barnes, a mom, former teacher, and founder of Raddish Kids, a subscription service that teaches kids how to cook. With guidance, kids as young as kindergarten can help with packing lunches, and if you have a picky eater at home, being involved in food prep is a great way to help them broaden their horizons.
According to Trista Best, a registered dietician at Balance One Supplements, kids are also more likely to actually eat their lunch if they feel some ownership over the meal. “A child that is allowed to be involved in the planning, preparation, and cooking process may be more inclined to sit and enjoy the meal they’ve helped create,” she says. That involvement also helps them learn important life lessons about how to prepare nutritionally balanced meals.
Packing your child’s lunch should feel like a breeze and offer you a range of options. Some health experts recommend the following healthy suggestions when preparing lunch boxes:
- Fruit – best choices include fresh or tinned fruit. Dried fruit is sticky and high in sugar, so have it occasionally. Best left out of the lunch box are dried fruit bars and ‘straps’, which are very high in sugar, low in fibre and stick to children’s teeth, causing tooth decay.
- Vegetables – try vegetable sticks with dip or a small container with mixed vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, capsicum and cucumber. Chips and packets of crisps are best left for parties and special occasions.
- Milk, yoghurt and custard – include a small drink of milk (freeze overnight) wrapped in a cloth in the lunch box. Fruit yoghurts should be kept cool in an insulated lunch box. Best left out of the lunch box are ‘dairy desserts’ and flavoured milks, which are high in sugar.
- Dips, cheese and biscuits – pre-packaged or your own homemade versions of cheese and crackers are fine. Children enjoy mini packaged cheeses. Avoid sweet dips such as chocolate spreads. ‘Oven-baked’ savoury biscuits are just as high in salt and fat as chips and are best avoided.
- Different breads add interest – include a variety of bread, especially if children begin to lose interest in sandwiches. Try bread rolls, pita bread, flatbread, bagels, fruit loaf or buns, focaccias, scones, pikelets, muffins, crumpets, crispbreads, rice cakes or corn thins.
- Vary the fillings – fillings can include Marmite or other yeast extracts, peanut butter, cheese (try different types), tuna, egg, sliced cold meats, baked beans, grated carrot and lettuce, chopped roast meat with pickles or chutney, and avocado. Dips like caviar (taramosalata), eggplant, chickpea (hummus), cucumber, yoghurt (tzatziki) or spinach also make good spreads. Avoid chocolate spreads, jams and honey, and fatty meats like salami and strasbourg.
- Muffins and cakes – try making your own muffins and cakes as a great way to include more fruit and vegetables. Examples include sultana, carrot, zucchini, banana or pumpkin. Donuts and creamy cakes are best offered on birthdays and special occasions instead of in lunch boxes.
- Muesli and ‘breakfast’ bars – almost all ‘bars’ are too high in sugar to include regularly, but cereal bars may be better for teeth than chewy, sticky muesli bars. Try to avoid muesli bars and chocolate bars in lunch boxes. These are expensive and usually stuck together with fats and sugars.
Your child(ren)’s healthy and filling lunches should be stored in containers that will also get them excited about the food. You can shop for different plastic lunch boxes and plastic water bottles at The Crazy Store to give your child a one of a kind lunch experience. There are different colours and themes for you to choose from; you might end up getting one for each day of the week.
When it comes to sealing off the perfect lunch for your child, consider milk and water as they are healthier alternatives. Sweet drinks such as fruit juices, juice drinks, cordials, sports drinks, flavoured mineral waters, soft drinks and fizzy drinks are high in sugar and not necessary as they increase the risk of tooth decay. You can shop lunch boxes and bottles at The Crazy Store and many other essentials such as lunch box bags and other storage containers.