Sending your children to school can be scary enough without the worry of what you should provide for a healthy packed lunch. There has been a lot of light shed on school lunches recently and, with some great help from Jamie Oliver, they have become tastier and more nutritious.
Difficult lunchtime decisions
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of speculation on what should go inside a packed lunch with many struggling to get the balance right. A lot of packed lunches tend to comprise a sandwich, yogurt, a packet of crisps, a sweet snack, a piece of fruit and a drink of juice. Although some of these items are healthy, many of them are deemed not to be and are an unsuitable choice for a school lunch, especially given the rise in obesity in children.
Schools now ban many items from packed lunches encouraging parents to make sensible decisions when making them. This, of course, is troubling for some parents as they worry about the cost, preparation and whether or not their children will eat it due to the food being “boring”. Well, fear not, because a healthy packed lunch doesn’t have to be boring, difficult or expensive to make.
Getting the right balance
The first thing to remember when making your kids’ a healthy packed lunch is to make sure that it is balanced. In other words, it should contain starchy foods (carbohydrates), protein foods, dairy foods and vegetables or salad and fruit. The starchy foods should make up a third of the lunch box and, therefore, be the main source of food provided.
The obvious food to reach for here is a sandwich but don’t let that be where it ends. Sandwiches are fine but try using brown bread, wholemeal bread or seeded bread rather than white. This will make things more exciting whilst providing better health benefits. Why not also opt for bagels, pitta bread, wraps and baguettes, all of which provide a different way of presenting and serving food?
Get creative in the kitchen
Various fillings can be used other than the obvious ham, jam or cheese spread options. Get creative and try roast beef pitta pockets, prawn bagels and avocado wraps. It’s worth bearing in mind that food doesn’t just need to be served in wheat based casings and many other options can be taken on board. Rice dishes, sushi, bean salads and other dishes can be incorporated instead.
Other foods that can be included are the likes of hard boiled eggs, breadsticks, crackers, vegetables and salad. Children often like foods that they can eat with their fingers making the above fantastic options. By simply cutting up the likes of peppers, cheese, celery and carrots children can eat them as they are or dip them into hummus, cheese spread and salsa.
Fruit should always be in a packed lunch but it should be fresh rather than dried. Despite dried fruit being a staple in packed lunches for years, new evidence suggests that the high sugar content can cause damage to the teeth. This is something else that needs to be addressed with a third of children starting school with tooth decay.
Try a healthy treat instead of a sweet
A yoghurt makes for a good treat in a lunch box offering something a little sweeter to enjoy. Natural yoghurts, fruit yoghurts and Fromage Frais make good options. Try to avoid chocolate yoghurts and puddings as these are full of sugar and high in calories. Cakes, chocolate bars and sweets are also non-advisable whilst at school. Crisps can be included occasionally but try to avoid putting them in every day. Unsalted nuts, although good for children are not recommended in lunch boxes in case of nut allergies.
Water is best
When it comes to what sort of drink you should provide in a packed lunch, the answer is water. Although not the most exciting of drinks, it is the most essential. Water will hydrate your child, help them to concentrate and keep them feeling energised. Sugary drinks such as fruit juices, fizzy drinks and cartons of fresh juice can lead to tooth decay and a lack of concentration.
Hopefully, these suggestions will give you some good ideas for providing your child with healthy packed lunches. If you have ideas for of your own, please let us know in the comments below.