A nutritious and balanced diet is important to your child’s growth, development and learning. The food that goes in a lunchbox can make up to a third of your child’s daily nutrient intake – and eating healthy food will help your child to concentrate during the day at school. Here are some tips so you can make sure your child is getting a healthy learning lunch every day!
1. Lunchbox balance
Try to include something from all five food groups in your child’s lunchbox – fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. Try to make sure your child gets the right portions of each food group in their lunchbox too, for example, a banana (1 serve of fruit), a sandwich (2 serves of grains) with chicken (1 serve of protein) and salad (1 serve of vegetables), and yoghurt (1 serve of dairy). If your child is particularly active or a little bit older, you may also like to include one extra snack. Children often like ‘finger’ foods, so try chopping up some veggie sticks (such as carrot, cucumber and snow peas) as a snack for another serve of vegetables!
2. Get them involved
Encourage your child to get involved in packing their lunchbox – older children may be able to prepare their lunch themselves, and younger children can help with simple tasks like making sandwiches or cutting fruit. Ask your child what their favourite lunchbox food options are, and try to include these more often. They may tell you that their friends get chocolate, chips and lollies for lunch – and they want them too! Talk to your child about how eating healthy foods can help them to grow, develop and learn, and that they will have more energy when they eat well. Let them know that ‘sometimes’ food like chips and lollies are ok for special occasions, but it can make you unhealthy to have them every day.
3. Healthy swaps
Try to avoid packaged foods like muesli bars and chips – these are high in sugar, fat and salt, so are best saved for special occasions. Swap ‘sometimes’ foods for a healthy alternative – instead of muesli bars or dried fruit snacks, try to pack fresh fruit (it has less sugar and more fibre). Instead of processed meats such as ham and salami, try to include lean protein, like tuna, chicken or eggs. Instead of chips, try packing some crackers and dip or plain popcorn. Try swapping sweet treats like biscuits and cakes for fruit yoghurt or wholemeal muffins. Instead of white bread, try to include a wholegrain or high fibre alternatives– there are lots of different options available such as fortified white, high fibre, multigrain or wholemeal.
4. Water works!
Water is the best drink to give your child to keep them going throughout the day. Fruit juices, fizzy drinks and cordial are normally high in sugar, so are also best saved for special occasions.
5. Mix it up
Variety is important – if you give your child the same thing in their lunchbox every day, they’ll likely get sick of it before too long! So try to mix it up a bit – perhaps one day they could have leftover noodles or spaghetti instead of a sandwich, or they might prefer some fresh berries instead of an apple.
For more tips on packing a healthy lunchbox, visit the Raising Children Network.