School dinners have had a radical overhaul. But what about the lunchboxes we pack for our children?
It’s just as important to make sure the lunchbox your child takes to school provides as healthy and balanced a lunch as what they would eat at home.
This means plenty of foods that contain the nutrients that children need, and fewer foods high in sugar and saturated fat.
Preparing your child’s lunchbox
A balanced packed lunch should contain:
- starchy foods – these are bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and others
- protein foods – including meat, fish, eggs, beans and others
- a dairy item – this could be cheese or a yoghurt
- vegetables or salad and a portion of fruit
Starchy foods are a good source of energy and should make up a third of the lunchbox. But don’t let things get boring.
Instead of sandwiches, give children bagels, pitta bread, wraps and baguettes. Use brown, wholemeal or seeded bread, not white bread.
Low-fat snacks for kids
Children often like food they can eat with their fingers, so chop up raw vegetables such as carrots or peppers and give them hummus or cottage cheese to dip the vegetables in.
Breadsticks and wholemeal crackers are great finger foods that can be spread with low-fat soft cheese or eaten with reduced-fat cheddar and pickles.
Replace chocolate bars and cakes with fresh fruit. Vary the fruit each day and get them to try new things, such as kiwi or melon.
Unsalted nuts are a great snack food for children to have at home, but it’s best to leave them out of your child’s packed lunch. Many nurseries ban nuts to protect pupils with a nut allergy.
You could also make up a tasty fruit salad. Be inventive and encourage your children when they try something new.
Note that dried fruit is no longer recommended as a between-meal snack as it’s high in sugar and can be bad for teeth.
Making healthier food
It may take a while for your children to get used to a healthier lunchbox. But it will be worth it for their health, so keep trying.
You can help by eating a wider range of foods at home as a family. For ideas on how to introduce more fruit and vegetables into your family’s diet, read 5 A DAY and your family.
Reading supermarket food labels can help you buy healthier foods for your child’s lunch and family meal times. Learn more in Food and labels.
Save chocolate and cakes for occasional treats. Remember to praise your child when they’ve tried something new to show your encouragement.
You can find lots of ideas for healthy lunches at Change4Life: healthy lunchbox ideas.
The Cheeky Monkeys Day Nursery idea fact sheet is attached below and contains some additional ideas for you. (Click on the image and it will enlarge)