After Jamie Oliver’s public campaign to increase nutrition in school dinners, healthy lunches have become a hot topic. Gone are the days when fish fingers and turkey twizzlers could be construed as haute cuisine! Instead, make sure that you are sending your child to school with the best brain food possible. Following a few easy nutritional guidelines will point you in the right direction.
Seven Steps to a Magnificent Meal
The British Nutrition Foundation has developed seven easy rules to follow for better nutrition. (The eighth rule, drinking alcohol in moderation, obviously does not apply!) When packing your child’s lunchbox, remember to include:
- Foods that your child will enjoy
- A variety of foods
- Portion sizes that will result in a healthy weight for your child
- Foods rich in starch and fibre
- Lots of fruits and vegetables
- Few fatty foods
- Few sugary foods and drinks
How Much Is Enough?
It’s easy to say “eat more of this” and “eat less of that,” but often parents find it confusing to know just how much of a certain food, or food group, is enough. General guidelines for school aged children, as promoted by the British Nutrition Foundation, include:
- A third of your child’s daily food intake should be bread, cereal or potatoes.
- Motivate your child to “strive for five” by eating 5 different fruits and vegetables per day.
- Remind your child to eat 2 – 3 servings of milk or dairy per day.
- Serve sensible portions of meat, fish or alternatives, including 2 servings of fish per week.
- A serving (or less!) of fatty or sugary foods per day, including sugary drinks, will keep your child in tip top health.
- Encourage your child to drink at least six glasses of water per day, more if he/she is athletic and active.
How Will It All Fit In A Lunchbox?
Packing a lunchbox is all about maximum nutrition in minimum space. Consider one of the following examples:
- Chicken with salad on whole wheat bread, an apple, carrot sticks, grapes and water
- Ham and cheese roll-ups with an orange, strawberries, celery sticks and homemade lemonade
- A mini pizza with a side salad, fruit salad and milk
- A flask of vegetable soup with crackers, a banana, cherries and tomato juice
Beat Lunchbox Boredom
One of the reasons lunchboxes become convenience food wastelands is because they can become repetitive when filled with the same old sandwiches. To beat lunchbox boredom, think about:
- Asking others for recommendations.
- Allowing your child to choose their favourite fruits and vegetables.
- Including silly notes or stickers to make lunchtime fun.
- Surfing the web for lunchbox ideas.
- Investing in funky new lunchboxes that can turn even the most boring lunch into something special.
- Having a theme week. Only Mexican or Chinese for five days.
- Focusing on a fruit or vegetable: Can you prepare carrots a different way each day?
Unfortunately there is no perfect lunchbox meal given that every child will have different preferences. Rather than striving for perfection, just follow the guidelines and get creative. Your children will thank you for it!