Healthy lunchbox for Healthy Kids

Written by on January 13, 2014 in Easy Recipes

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Healthy lunchbox = Healthy Kids

by Dietician Faaizah Asmal- RD (SA)- [email protected]

 You can now ask you healthy habit questions to the experts. http://bit.ly/NaniHealthyHabits

The start of the new school year is fast approaching. All over the country, Moms and Dads are frantically trying to get school supplies and uniforms in order for a smooth, easy start to the new school year. Some anxious as its their child’s first year at school, others are old pros at where to shop and what to buy. But many moms still find it hard to pack a great, nutritious lunchbox.

This year, I want to help mothers by taking the guess work out of lunchbox packing, giving you the basics to pack healthy nutritious lunch boxes that children cant help but finish, leaving their school mates green with envy!

Healthy, nutritious, balanced meals ensure optimal growth and development for brain and body.  If mornings are rushed, lunch boxes and cooler bags can be packed the night before and kept in the fridge overnight. Ask your kids to help you prepare their lunch boxes with foods that are good for them and taste great too.  They could choose a fruit, fill their water coolers, pack coolers into the fridge or even layout bread ready to be filled. This means plenty of foods that contain the nutrients that children need, and fewer foods that are high in sugar and saturated fat.

 Packing the lunchbox

A balanced packed lunch should contain:

Starchy foods. These are bread, low sugar cereals, rice, potatoes and pasta. These foods are high in fiber and vitamins and minerals. Starchy foods which breakdown to form glucose, is the main energy source for the brain. Carbohydrates with a high fiber content or low GI carbohydrates will provide a slow release of glucose into the blood stream ensuring a constant blood glucose level throughout the day. 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 kids bagels, pitta bread, wraps and baguettes. Use brown, wholemeal or seeded bread, not white bread.

Protein foods. These are meat, fish, eggs, beans and others.

Protein foods provide the building blocks (amino acids) for strong healthy muscles among other functions in the body.

A dairy item. This could be cheese or yoghurt. Dairy food are high in calcium ensuring your child gets all the calcium he/ she needs for strong healthy bones and teeth. Avoid dairy drinks that are sweetened as these could promote tooth caries.

Vegetables or salad, and a portion of fruit. Fruits and vegetables not only provide vitamins and minerals needed by the body but they also provide fiber, which is essential for good digestive health. These foods keep things interesting by adding colour and variety to the lunchbox.

Water. A bottle of water is essential to keep your child hydrated throughout the long school day. Freeze on hot days to keep the water nice and cool.

 

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 healthier foods at home, as a family. Reading food labels can help you to buy healthier foods for your child’s lunch, and for family meal times.

Save chocolate and cakes for occasional treats. Remember to praise your child when they’ve tried something new, to show your encouragement. Take your child along if possible on shopping trips. Guide them in picking out vegetables and fruits from the fresh produce isles as you push the trolley. Try and fill your shopping basket with as much fresh produce as possible and limiting the amount of pre packaged food items.

Replace chocolate bars and cakes with fresh fruit, dried fruit.

Vary the fruit each day and get them to try new things, like 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 schools 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.

For smaller children, try cutting the sandwiches into exciting shapes, stars, hearts or animals to keep things interesting.

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A lunchbox should always include:

Depending on the age of the child, a lunchbox should include the following. Smaller children will eat less but it also depends on how hungry your child gets. Enquire after school if the food was enough or too much.

– At least 2 pieces of fruit (fresh, dried or tinned)

– At least 1 serve of dairy food such as yoghurt, milk or cheese

– At least 3-4 serves carbohydrate-rich foods such as breads, crackers, wholegrain muffins and fruit based bars, pasta, etc.

 

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The lunchbox lowdown:

As promised here are some healthier, interesting ideas

  • Bagel with low fat cream cheese, tomato and cucumber slices
  • English breakfast muffins with tomato and cheese
  • Pita bread with a filling.
    • Chicken cubes mixed with grated carrot, cubed peppers and lite mayonnaise is always a winner. Or steak stripes stir fried with mixed pepper strips and baby spinach
    • Fillings can be made t he night before and filled on that morning
  • Provita  with peanut butter or cheese spread
  • Wholewheat mini pizza with cheese and pineapple
  • Boiled egg mayo sandwich
  • Whole wheat mini rolls
    • Cheese and tomato
    • Chicken mayo
    • Steak roll
    • Tuna roll
  • Sweetcorn fritters with low fat cottage cheese
  • Cold pasta spirals.
    • Mix with chicken, sweetcorn and rosa tomatoes
    • Tomato based pasta sauce with lean sausage pieces
    • Pink salmon, lite mayo, cucumber cubes

 

Sandwiches with various fillings such as:

  • Dairy options: cheese, low fat cream cheese,  low fat cottage cheese
  • Lettuce, grated carrot, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers
  • Peanut butter
  • My daughters favourite: Tuna mayo sandwiches
  • Chicken sandwich (using leftover chicken from the night before)

 

Finger foods:

Children often like food they can eat with their fingers, so chop up raw veggies and serve with an accompanying dip

  • Vege sticks ideas: Carrots, peppers, celery sticks, cucumber sticks, baby tomatoes,
  • Dips: hummus or cottage cheese. Plain low fat yoghurt.
  • Breadsticks, grissini sticks or wholemeal crackers
  • Oat or whole wheat based breakfast bars with low fat fruited or smooth yoghurt

 

Lunch Box Snacks 

  • Fresh, dried or tinned fruit or fruit salad – bananas,
  • apples, pears, mandarins, nectarines, grapes,
  • sultanas, dried apples or apricots
  • fresh or dried berries
  • mini grain and fruit based bars
  • Plain popcorn
  • Fruit muffins or fruit loaf (make with whole wheat flour)
  • Cheese sticks
  • Yoghurt

Hint: freeze yoghurt overnight to prevent bacterial growth (can be eaten as a frozen yoghurt in summer)

  • Sultana and peanut mix or mixed nuts
  • Creamed rice with fruit mini pudding
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Whole grain scones or whole wheat muffins with cheese/ spread

 

Lunch Box Drinks

  • Water
  • Low fat flavoured milk or flavoured drinking yoghurt
  • Hint: frozen water or tetra packs can be used as a freezer brick to keep foods cold such as yoghurt and meat.

 

Healthy eating workshops

Faaizah Asmal is a dietician in Johannesburg. She with Dr Akoon host healthy eating habit workshops at living studio in Benoni at 157 Woburn Avenue. More info  contact Dietician Faaizah Asmal- RD (SA)- [email protected]

 

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  1. Rookaya says:

    Excellent, Yummy ideas, need you Urgently in my Home, you are the Best.

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