Make lunch time a healthy lesson
What better way for parents to start the school year than by providing healthy, simple and nutritious lunches that are not only tasty but inexpensive.
Filling a healthy lunch box 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, spokeswoman 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 lunch boxes 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 lunch box. 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 lunch box of healthy options is better for children but it is also more economical,’’ said Ms Anderson whose team purchased two lunches, one of mainly packaged foods and the second full of healthier options. The team found that putting together a healthier lunch box was less expensive.
A lunch box with a packet of chips, a muesli bar, a packaged drink, a plum, and chocolate biscuits cost $3.46. A healthy lunch box filled with a cucumber, carrot and cheese sandwich, a celery stick filled with peanut butter, apricot, banana, sliced apple and water cost $2.82.
HEALTHY START: Send your children to school with nutritious snacks.