By Aveen Bannon, Registered Dietician
It’s nearly time to go back to school. But heading back to school means that it’s time to start thinking of school lunches. It’s an ongoing challenge, and while you want to ensure a healthy meal for your children there can also be a little pressure to produce something exotic and exciting too!
Before we get carried away with planning fancy and fabulous lunches for our little ones, we need to remind ourselves why the lunchbox so important. There is a clear relationship between nutrition and your child’s ability to grow, develop, learn and play. The food eaten in school should provide up to one third of a child’s daily nutrients. Good nutrition in school will assist children to make the connections between healthy eating, well-being and performance while also instilling in them a holistic and healthy approach to healthy eating for life. Thankfully, most schools have a healthy eating policy in place.
It can be a good idea to get your children to prepare or help you prepare their lunch; this will allow them to take responsibility for sticking to a healthy lunch policy. Also, in theory if they are involved in the preparation of the food, they are more likely to eat all of it!
preparation is key
Carbohydrates: This is a staple part of all of our meals. Our brains rely on carbohydrates for fuel. They are the preferred source of fuel for working muscles during activity. Ideally you want to include a high fibre food that offers a slow steady release of energy throughout the school day. Carbohydrate rich foods include bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and wholegrains.
Protein: Protein is the building block of all the cells in our bodies and is a very important part of our diet. We all need protein rich foods in two or more meals per day to help with the growth and maintenance of body tissue and muscle. It is important that lean meat, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs, beans, lentils or hummus are included in the lunchbox each day.
Colour: Fruit and vegetables contain lots of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. Try adding some salad and fruit to the lunchbox daily. Sweetcorn, chopped carrots, cherry tomatoes or chopped peppers are all pretty colours and naturally sweet so tend to be more popular with children.
Calcium: Calcium rich foods are imperative for healthy bones. Include a yogurt, some cheese or milk in their lunchbox to help meet the recommended 3-5 servings of calcium rich foods per day. Glenisk organic kids yogurt are the perfect size for lunch boxes and the banana and apricot flavours have no added sugar in them.
Fluid: Milk or water are the best options and can be kept cool in an insulated lunchbox. Make sure your child drinks something every day in school, as poor hydration will lead to tiredness.
Treats: Children are active and need healthy calories so can be allowed to enjoy a little treat in their daily lunchbox. Healthy treats can include flavoured rice cakes, dried fruit, oat biscuits, mini scones or fruitcake. Children’s perceptions of treats are often influenced by their parents, if you don’t consider raisins or fruit cake to be a nice sweet snack the chances are your children won’t either.