ENSURE YOUR CHILD EATS CORRECT FOOD
With school lunch box policies getting stricter by the year, LATOYA NEWMAN asked dietitian and Association for Dietetics in South Africa spokesperson Lucinda Lourens for some tips on a healthy yet kid-friendly lunch box
LUCINDA Lourens is a private practising dietitian at Life Groenkloof Hospital in Pretoria. She has a special interest in paediatric nutrition and a passion for infants and young children.
Working at the Pretoria Centre for Cerebral Palsy, situated in the hospital, also means she sees a range of children with special dietary needs.
Lourens also works closely with crèches and nurseries developing menus and providing nutritional information to them.
“My aim for 2017 is to start vegetable and herb gardens at these facilities in Pretoria and get these little minds and fingers enthusiastic about nutrition and health.” Lourens’s list of interesting sandwich fillers that balance healthy eating and still manage to attract the taste buds of children (who can be very fussy eaters) includes: Thinly sliced leftover meat, chicken or turkey Tuna/chicken/egg and light mayonnaise Sugar-free peanut butter or nut butters Lean minced meat Liver/fish spread Cottage cheese Light hummus Avocado. Add-ons: Tomatoes, greens (baby spinach, lettuce or cabbage), cucumber, gherkins, low-fat cheese, lean soft biltong and lean bacon.
SOME HEALTHY DRINKS
Water (always!) Homemade iced tea Low-fat unflavoured, sugar-free milk Diluted 100 percent fruit juice (¼ juice, ¾ water)
SOME HEALTHY SNACKS
Popcorn Fresh fruit Fish cakes Baby quiches Unsalted mixed nuts Roasted corn on the cob Low-fat yoghurt or custard Lean meat and vegetable balls Wholegrain homemade muffins Fruit and/or vegetable smoothie Homemade banana and nut bread Fruit salad with light custard or low-fat yoghurt Mini-wholegrain pita or wrap with vegetable and protein (cheese, chicken or meat) filling Lean biltong, ostrich or game with cottage cheese dip Pro-vita or wholegrain crackers with a low-fat/sugar-free spread Raw veggies (carrots, snap peas, cherry tomatoes and baby corn) with a dip (light mayonnaise, sugarfree peanut butter or hummus)
HELPFUL TIPS FOR LUNCH BOX PLANNING/SHOPPING
The five golden rules for a healthy school lunch box are Variety, Balanced, Colourful, Fresh, Fun
Use a lunch box with dividers to pack the lunch and snack in creative ways. It will also display food more attractively. Put your child's name on the box to make them feel important.
Make them feel special! Write a short note or put a picture of their favourite superhero or family photo in their lunch box. They will look forward to their next lunch break.
Resist giving your child money to spend at the school cafeteria. Remember you are not around to give advice and guide them on what to buy, and there are loads of temptations.
Keep it interesting! Cut out the sandwich into a heart shape or assemble the fruit into the shape of a flower. Put fruit and vegetable pieces onto skewers to make kebabs. GET CREATIVE: Have a look at
www.superhealthykids.com and www.
easylunchboxes.com for some fantastic ideas. SURPRISE your little one with a treat once in a while. A small chocolate or cupcake will remind them that treats can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.
PLAN AHEAD! Take time to plan each lunch box. This is not time wasted – remember you are investing in your child’s health and wellbeing and should never compromise on that. THE HEALTHIEST TYPE OF BREAD ● Low GI seeded bread/buns ● Wholegrain or multi-seed wraps/ pitas Gluten- and wheat-free options should only be given to children with a true allergy or intolerance
Homemade breads are great – especially if you make use of stoneground flour, nuts and seeds to keep the GI low. Keep the season and time of school breaks in mind when planning a lunch box. For example, sandwiches that contain leafy greens, chicken, egg or fish should be consumed at the first break and be kept in a cool container in summer. Winter is ideal to pack in a wholesome soup in a mug with a lid.
OTHER HEALTH TIPS
Cut down on sugar as it is empty calories that won't keep your child full for long.
Always dilute 100 percent fruit juices or fruit pulp with water or ice cubes.
Always remember to rather eat the fruit than drink its juice.
Cordials, commercial milkshakes, fizzy drinks, fruit concentrates and sport drinks are loaded with sugar and calories. They are not recommended.
Water can be naturally flavoured with fruit to give a fruity taste – make use of a water-bottle dispenser or freeze water with fresh fruit pieces in a bottle at home.
Fruit is naturally high in sugar and, therefore, adding a treat to the lunch box contributes to added sugar.
Add plain yoghurt to smoothies to cut down on the sugar content.
TIPS WHEN PLANNING AND BUYING SNACKS
Always make a list of the things you need. One tends to buy unnecessary groceries and tempting snacks if one doesn't stick to a list.
Homemade food and snacks are best compared to commercially prepared products that may be high in sugar, fat and salt. Therefore, rather prepare smoothies, bread and muffins at home and involve your children. Buy in bulk and save on costs. Buy seasonal vegetables and fruit. Snacks should be low in sugar and salt. Therefore, rather choose non-sugar-coated dried fruit and unsalted nuts.
Start your own vegetable and herb garden. This will not only entice your child to grow and enjoy vegetables, but will also save on costs.
Dairy is important for children. Choose full-cream products for children younger than two years old and low-fat for children older than two years of age.
It’s important to involve your child in choosing, buying and preparing meals and snacks! Bake together!
Read the food labels. Branded food products with an action figure does not necessarily mean it is healthy and kid-friendly. Always look at the calorie, sugar, fat, fibre and salt content.
WAYS TO INCREASE WATER AND FLUID INTAKE
Try to flavour water naturally by adding the following and leaving them overnight in the refrigerator. You can also freeze these in an ice-lolly mould to enjoy on a hot summer’s day. Pineapple cubes and kiwi slices Watermelon and rosemary sticks Grapefruit slices and mint leaves Ginger, lemon slices and raspberries
Blueberries, orange and lemon slices
Strawberries, cucumber, orange slices and mint leaves
Freeze yoghurt, fresh fruit pieces and water and let them enjoy these ice lollies instead of ice-cream. Use them at parties too.
Make smoothies from fresh fruit, yoghurt, and water or milk and let them enjoy it as a snack or as a drink at breakfast.
Increase the children’s interest by serving water in funky coloured bottles or jugs with curly straws. Put a funky label with a message, picture or their name on their water bottle.
Always send a bottle of water to school in their lunch box. Freeze them as cold water quenches thirst.
Always have a bottle of water in your baby bag or cooler and encourage your child to take small sips during the day, even if they are not always thirsty.
Serve water with plenty of crushed ice. The ice adds more fluid. Offer your child sparkling, unflavoured water. They might enjoy the bubbly sensation.
Make a healthy hot chocolate by adding unsweetened cacao powder and one teaspoon of sugar/ honey to milk. Let them enjoy it as a hot beverage in winter or cold in summer.
Homemade cold ice tea is a great thirst quencher – limit it to only one (for smaller infants) to two (for older children) glasses per day in between meals or freeze into small ice cubes and add it as ice blocks to water.
Clockwise: from left, hummus sandwich and cheddar cheese; fun preschool lunch with puzzle sandwich, grapes, hummus cucumbers and veggie chips; crackers, baby carrots, strawberries, cold meat and cheese; sandwich with cold meat, cheese, lettuce leaves, onion and tomato slices.
Mineral water with strawberries, ice and mint in a vintage cup