Healthy school lunches won’t blow your bud­get

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

What bet­ter way for par­ents to kick start the school year than by pro­vid­ing healthy, sim­ple and nu­tri­tious lunches that are not only tasty but in­ex­pen­sive.

Fill­ing a healthy lunch­box is a daily dilemma for many par­ents around the coun­try and with lunch pro­vid­ing en­ergy for a large part of the day it is im­por­tant that choices in­clude the right type of fuel.

‘‘It takes some thought but it is quite easy to re­place high sat­u­rated fat, high sugar foods,’’ said Bron­wen An­der­son, spokesper­son for 5+ A Day. ‘‘Small changes like us­ing avo­cado in­stead of but­ter on sand­wiches or pop­ping in a hand­ful of baby car­rots, or a sim­ple home­made pizza with a pita bread base loaded with veg­eta­bles such as tomato, onion and even a bit of fruit like pineap­ple chunks on top will pro­vide the en­ergy needed for ac­tive kids with­out adding un­wanted fat and sugar calo­ries.’’

5+ A Day is on a mis­sion to see chil­dren’s lunch­boxes filled with five serv­ings of fruit or veg­eta­bles ev­ery day.

Ms An­der­son sug­gested re­plac­ing muesli bars or choco­late bis­cuits and cakes with fresh fruit, low fat yo­ghurt or un­salted nuts. Vary the fruit each day and get them to try new things such as ki­wifruit, fei­joa or melon.

Chil­dren of­ten like food they can eat with their fin­gers, so chop up raw veges such as car­rots or pep­pers and give them hum­mus or cot­tage cheese to dip the veges in. Bread­sticks and whole­meal crack­ers are great fin­ger foods and they can be spread with low-fat soft cheese or eaten with re­duced-fat ched­dar and mar­mite.

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, pita bread, wraps and baguettes. Use brown, whole­meal or seeded bread, not white bread.

Pre­par­ing part of the lunches the night be­fore can take the pres­sure off in the morn­ing as well as en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to grad­u­ally take over the re­spon­si­bil­ity for pre­par­ing their own lunches.

‘‘A lunch­box of healthy op­tions is bet­ter for chil­dren but it is also more eco­nom­i­cal,’’ said Ms An­der­son whose team pur­chased two lunches, one con­sist­ing of mainly pack­aged foods and the sec­ond com­pris­ing of health­ier op­tions that con­trib­ute to­wards the 5+ serves of fruit and veg­eta­bles a day that are rec­om­mended for health and well-be­ing.

The team found that putting to­gether a health­ier lunch box was sig­nif­i­cantly less ex­pen­sive.

A lunch­box which in­cluded a packet of chips, a muesli bar, a pack­aged drink, a plum and choco­late bis­cuits cost ap­prox­i­mately $3.46. This com­pared to a healthy lunch­box filled with a cu­cum­ber, carrot and cheese sandwich, a cel­ery stick filled with peanut but­ter, apri­cot, ba­nana, sliced ap­ple and wa­ter which cost ap­prox­i­mately $2.82.

‘‘It may take a while for your chil­dren to get used to a health­ier lunch­box,’’ said Ms An­der­son.

‘‘But it will be worth it for their health and at the same time – it will be much eas­ier on your pocket.’’ Back to School Lunch Ideas – Load sand­wiches up with veg­eta­bles: grated carrot, cap­sicum, sliced mush­rooms and spinach. Add sliced cu­cum­bers or baby spinach for crunch.

– Add diced car­rots, corn, sil­ver­beet, onions and toma­toes to chop suey for a colour­ful lunch.

– Make home-made salsa with toma­toes, man­gos, av­o­ca­dos, red onion, co­rian­der and lime juice. Use as a dip or sandwich fill­ing.

– Fill veg­e­tar­ian sushi with avo­cado, finely sliced car­rots, red pep­pers, cu­cum­ber and sil­ver­beet.

– Use up left over potato salad, roast veg­eta­bles or sum­mer sal­ads, serve in air tight con­tain­ers, add a low fat dress­ing and crispy noo­dles.

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