Food to build healthy little bodies

Health bread or a pie, fruit juice or strawberry milk, a chocolate snack or an apple? When it comes to planning your children’s lunch-boxes, you not only need to be innovative, you need to think of their health, too.  

It’s break time at school and your daughter opens her lunch-box with anticipation. Perhaps there’s that bar of chocolate she saw on the kitchen shelf, some chewy sweets and her favourite fizzy drink waiting for her to get stuck into. When the lid flips open, she draws back with a resounding ‘Yuck!’ at the fresh health roll and carrot sticks with a fruit juice.

What she doesn’t understand yet is that healthy lunches and snacks are essential and help children with concentration and learning. There is limited time for them to eat during the day, especially at school when their priorities are more focused on playing with friends, instead of eating. This makes it quite important that they be encouraged to sit and eat before heading out to play.

Changing eating habits and convincing your child to eat healthily is not always easy, particularly if they have become accustomed to luxuries and shopping at the tuck shop on a regular basis. 

WHERE TO START

Try to set a good example with your own lunches. Encourage your children to become involved in their own lunch preparation by taking them shopping with you and letting them choose healthy snacks that they enjoy. Praise your child when they choose well.

Peer pressure plays a significant role in children’s food choices as they’re influenced by food advertising and their friends. It’s important to keep offering healthy lunch-box choices in a variety of ways, as children learn to eat what is familiar to them. And remember that it may take time to change your child’s food preferences to healthier choices. If your child is particularly resistant to the change, try making small changes at a time.

SIX ITEMS TO PUT IN A LUNCH-BOX

  1. Fresh fruit 
  2. Crunchy vegetables
  3. Dairy like cheese, milk or yoghurt
  4. Protein like –a slice of lean meat or a hard-boiled egg
  5. Starch like health crackers or a fruit roll
  6. Water

BEST LEFT OUT

  • Muesli, chocolate bars and dried fruit bars
  • Potato crisps and oven-baked savoury biscuits
  • Sweet drinks like flavoured milks
  • Doughnuts and cakes
  • Lollies, honey and jams
  • Fatty meats such as salami

FOOD SAFETY 

In most cases, food is stored in lunch-boxes for several hours so the lunch-box needs to be kept cool. 

  • Choose an insulated lunch-box or one with a freezer pack. Alternatively, a wrapped frozen water bottle can keep the lunch-box cool for a good few hours. Two smaller boxes may also be more convenient than a single large one. 
  • Perishable foods such as dairy products, eggs and sliced meats should be kept cool and eaten within about four hours of preparation. Don’t pack these foods if they were just been cooked, first cool in the refrigerator overnight. 
  • If you include left-over meals such as meats, pasta and rice dishes, it’s best to pack a frozen ice block into the lunch-box.