Back to School Lunches

After months of uncertainty and home schooling, it appears the majority of our kids will be returning to full time schooling next week. While this may bring mixed feelings for many parents, one question I’m sure we are all asking is; What do I put in their lunchbox?

Considering what nutrition your child needs is incredibly important to ensure optimal growth, energy levels and alertness in the classroom and with each passing year, your child’s nutritional requirements may alter and increase.

Below is a table from the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating Website: www.eatforhealth.gov.au  depicting recommended serving sizes for your child’s age and gender for each food group. This can be a great resource to have on your fridge!

 1. Vegetable and salad

As you can see above, the recommended intake of vegetables and salad group is quite large, and it’s hard to fit in these 4-5 serves a day by having them only on the dinner plate! Including some types of salad or vegetable in a sandwich or wrap can be a great way to increase intake, as well as sending cut up raw vegetables (carrots, celery, and capsicum) as a snack. If you’re a creative type, you could keep it interesting by cutting vegetables into different shapes!

2. Fruit

Such an easy and convenient snack to pack into a lunch box. Unfortunately, pre-packaged food items which can be high in refined sugars have replaced so many natural products and not enough children are consuming the recommended servings of fruit! Fruit provides us with dietary fibre to keep our bowels working well and gives us a huge dose of vitamins and minerals. Using a variety of different fruits in the lunch box and keeping it seasonal can reduce the hip pocket stress and keep your child interested. Plus many fruits such as mandarins or bananas come in their own natural packaging so its good for us AND good for the environment.

3. Grains and cereals

Sick of finding soggy uneaten sandwiches in the bottom of the schoolbag? Consider what type of bread you are using! Plain, white bread goes soggy more quickly than high fibre loaves or alternatives such as wraps, flat breads or rolls, which are also far more nutritious! Again variety is key, so try a variety of bread products to keep little ones interested.

Tip:  If including tomato’s in your sandwich/wrap use a paper towel to soak excess juice beforehand, or for older kids, send them in a separate container to be added just before eating.

4. Protein and Dairy

Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks to muscle growth and repair of cells. Depending what protein you choose they can also be a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and many other nutrients. Protein options to include in lunchboxes may include; eggs, cheese, yoghurt, tuna, chicken, lean ham and salmon.

Tip: to keep lunch box cool, pack a frozen water bottle into the bottom of the lunchbox or check out cooler-type lunch boxes that stay cooler for longer.

5. Snacks

Aim to provide a maximum of 1 packaged muesli or snack bar in their lunchbox each day to avoid excess energy and sugar intake. These also allows your child to fill up on the good stuff rather than high processed, low nutrition foods. Try to choose wholegrain and dairy based snacks, or minimally processed alternative such as air popped popcorn, roasted chickpeas, kid size yogurts, vitaweet style crackers and cheese portions.

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