WITH one in four Australians considered overweight or obese, a dietician has provided tips on the healthiest foods to put into school lunchboxes to help parents curb the trend.
WITH one in four Australian children now considered overweight or obese, a leading dietician has come up with some useful tips about what foods to put in the lunchbox and what to leave out.
Dietician Ana Gowrea from the South Metropolitan Population Health Unit said it was important for children to have a variety of healthy food, which gave them the nutrition they needed to grow, develop and concentrate.
“Parents and carers will pack more than 2500 lunchboxes over the course of a child’s school years,” she said.
“Choosing items from each of the five food groups (vegetables and legumes, fruit, grain, lean meats and diary) will give children all the nutrition they need to play and to learn.”
Mrs Gowrea said simply, healthy school lunch options include a sandwich/wrap or main meal with a source of protein and salad, a piece of fruit or sliced vegetables, dairy or wholegrain snacks and a bottle of water.
“All lunchboxes should contain at least one serve of fruit and one serve of vegetables.
“Breads and cereals should be wholegrain as these help students get the slow release of energy they need throughout the day.”
Avoid packaged and processed foods such as biscuits, chips, lollies, chocolate, muesli bars and soft drinks, which are high in fat, added sugar and salt and low in fibre.
Mrs Gowrea said breakfast was still considered the most important meal of the day. Scientific evidence linked breakfast consumption with im- proved numeracy and literacy skills.
“Children who don’t get enough to eat at the start of the day are more likely to make poor food choices for the rest of the day and in the long term,” Mrs Gowrea said.
After school, parents should resist the temptation to hand out small portions of highly processed foods as these will only keep children satisfied for a limited time. Replace the biscuits and crisps with a piece of fruit, smoothie, fruit toast, yoghurt or cheese, dried fruit, nuts and seeds or cheese/cold meat and wholegrain crackers.
For more ideas visit the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating at www.eatforhealth. gov.au/guidelines/australian -guide-healthy-eating or the Livelighter and the WA School Canteen Association websites.
Ana Gowrea gives the thumbs down to sugary soft drinks and a tick for fresh fruit.