The Ultimate School Lunchbox Guide
The start of another school year is a reminder to mums of the pressing need to get back into grind of preparing a tasty, appealing and nutritious school lunch, five days a week for hungry, growing children. Unfortunately, despite the very best intentions, all too often sandwiches and fresh fruit are returned squashed in the bottom of school bags leaving parents in despair and children potentially not getting all of the nutrition they require. The good news is that is very simple lunchbox formula is guaranteed to get the thumbs up from both the kids and nutritionists achieving a great balance between appealing, fun foods for kids and the key nutrients growing children need.
A nutritionally balanced lunchbox can be divided into four core sections: low glycaemic index carbohydrates for energy, proteins for nutrition and fullness, fruit for fibre and vitamins and a snack food that has some nutritional benefit. Most importantly, busy children need plenty of water for optimal hydration, particularly in the warmer months when small children are at high risk of dehydration.
1) Carbohydrates for energy –
In most cases this will translate to a sandwich or wrap style lunchbox addition. Where possible choose grain or brown bread or you may find that wraps are a preferred option as they are easier to eat and less likely to go soggy. Always try and add a protein rich filling to your child’s sandwich – egg, lean meat or cheese or some good options. Protein rich fillings offer a number of important nutrients including iron, zinc and Vitamin B12. Light salads such as lettuce can also be added or alternatively try packing some carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes in small contains to be munched on throughout the day. If you are worried about the freshness, pack an extra ice block or fresh sandwiches the night before.
Fresh fruit is always preferable to dried, fruit sticks or juice as it contains fewer kilojoules, more fibre and teaches children the importance of eating fresh food.
Protein is the nutrient that tends to be missed in school lunchboxes and is often replaced with extra fruit, juice or more snacks. Protein rich foods including low fat dairy provides calcium and a number of other key nutrients including magnesium and phosphorous which all growing children need daily. Great protein rich lunchbox fillers include cheese sticks, yogurt tubes; milk protein based snacks bars and flavoured milk poppers are popular with children and are also low GI, which helps to keep kids fuller for longer after eating them.
Busy, growing bodies do need energy but they need good quality energy and many processed snack and muesli bars available do not contain a lot of nutrition for many kilojoules. While children do not necessarily need packaged snack foods, not providing them may see them start to swap their lunchbox contents for other, more appealing options and hence providing a limited amount of snack food may prevent the swapping issue so, aim to provide just one packaged muesli or snack bar in your child’s lunchbox each day and try and choose options that have < 450kJ. Wholegrain and dairy based snack bars are more nutritious options.
TIP: Snack Food Checklist
<450kJ per serve
Protein – 3-5g per bar
Total carbohydrate - <20g per bar
Contain wholegrains, are low GI or have calcium
Water should always be the drink of choice for children. Fruit juice, soft drinks, sports drinks and cordials are high in sugar and are not appropriate everyday drinks for children.
Ham and cheese wrap on Mountain bread
Tub of frozen grapes
Calci Yum milk popper
Packet of popcorn
Bottle of water
Low GI sandwich with turkey
100g Ski D’Lite yoghurt
Uncle Toby’s Low GI Muesli Bar
8 Vita Weats + vegemite
2 small peaches
Tasti Milkie Bar
Egg, lettuce and mayo on dinner roll
Munchables Light Cheese and Cracker Snack Pack
Packet of Paradise VIVE Cookies
Chicken sandwich on multigrain bread
Tub of Goulburn Valley Fruit
Dairy Pops Bites
2 homemade low fat mini muffins