Send your kids to school with a lunchbox full of healthy food that will keep them alert, focused and energised throughout the day. A balanced lunch gives your kids the nutrition they need to concentrate on their learning, and to replenish the energy they spend running around and being kids.
A good lunchbox should be as nutritious as possible without being boring. While limiting sugary and high-fat treats like chips and chocolate, bring variety and colour into your packed lunch with a range of healthy alternatives, from fresh fruits to boiled eggs to low-fat yogurt. Encourage your child to be involved in filling their own lunchbox from a range of healthy options and start to teach them how delicious and fun good, wholesome food can be.
To make sure you get a healthy balance, consider these basic elements of a good packed lunch:
Fruit and vegetables. Fresh fruit is a great simple snack – grab an apple, banana, mandarin or small bunch of grapes, or chop up some fresh pineapple, strawberries or melon to make a mini fruit salad. Raw carrot sticks, cucumber or capsicum strips and cherry tomatoes are also a good healthy option, packed with cheese or a dip like hummus.
Wholegrains. Sandwiches are a lunchbox staple, so try varying the type of bread you use. Wholemeal, rye, linseed or pita pockets can be great ways to add in extra fibre and nutrients. Brown or white rice or tricolour pasta are also good starches to use in salads or if you are packing leftovers. These low-GI carbohydrates will provide your kids with a steady stream of energy to get them through the afternoon.
Lean protein. Each day, you should include some protein such as tuna, chicken, lean beef, boiled eggs, chickpeas or tofu. These can be easily mixed and matched in sandwiches, or you could include a hardboiled egg as a snack, or throw some meat or chickpeas in a salad.
Reduced fat dairy. Add a small tub of yogurt or a wedge of low-fat cheese toy our kids lunchbox for a healthy snack with a calcium boost.
Drinks. Provide a bottle of water to keep your kids hydrated. This should be the main drink of the day – avoid high-energy drinks like soft drinks and limit sugary juices. A small carton of reduced fat milk can be a good alternative every once in a while.
A week of lunchbox ideas
Egg and salad sandwich on multigrain bread, small tub of reduced fat yogurt, a cup of unsalted, natural popcorn, a banana or apple, and a water bottle.
Chicken and alfalfa wholegrain wrap, low-sugar muesli bar, a hardboiled egg, fresh fruit salad and a water bottle.
Vegetable frittata, small plastic bag of low-sugar dry cereal, a handful of mixed nuts, small bunch of grapes and a water bottle.
Tuna salad, slice of reduced fat cheese and rice crackers, small low-sugar fruit or savoury muffin, halved kiwifruit and a water bottle.
Avocado, ham, cucumber and lettuce sandwich on linseed bread, two rice cakes with a thin slice of Vegemite, sliced carrots or celery, a mandarin and a small carton of reduced fat flavoured milk.
Note: Energy and nutrient requirements for children at different ages vary and the above are only suggestions.
Visit nhmrc.gov.au for the Australian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents.