WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
WHEN IT COMES TO SCHOOL LUNCH BOXES, MOST PARENTS FIND IT’S A FINE BALANCE BETWEEN PACKING WHAT THEY THINK IS RIGHT AND WHAT THEIR CHILDREN WILL ACTUALLY EAT
Nutritionist Leanne Cooper says a healthy lunch box should be made up of four main components. “The first one is the main item such as a sandwich, wrap, pasta with vegetables, soup, frittata or sushi,” she says.
“The second component is whole fruit, cut-up veggie sticks, fruit in natural juice, or a small salad.
“The third component is a second snack based on a core food product such as reduced-fat yoghurt, grainy crackers with reduced-fat cheese, plain popcorn, a slice of raisin bread, a wholemeal fruit muffin, a boiled egg or a can of tuna, and finally a drink. Water is best. Core foods include vegetables and legumes/beans, fruit, grain (cereal) foods — mostly wholegrain and high fibre, lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans, milk, yoghurt and cheese.”
One thing I keep in mind is to bring as much colour and crunch to my girls’ lunch boxes as possible. In essence, the more colour we see, the larger the nutritional range (Skittles are not counted). This will alleviate the “all white” lunch box syndrome (think pasta, white bread, biscuits and overdoing dairy), while also bringing an element of surprise and excitement.
From what I am hearing, snacks are where most parents are coming undone. There are many food manufacturers convincing us that their products will make our lives easier, but these are the ones we want to avoid. For example, it’s startling to realise the amount of sugar found in a humble storebought muesli bar (up to 4 tsp), a juice popper (5 tsp) and an innocent packet of sultanas (6 tsp).
This can take a simple snack to a whopping 15 tsp, far above the recommended daily recommendation of 6-8 tsp for children.
The same applies to saturated fats (think crackers, crisps and cake), which binds most snacks together. If you can’t avoid the temptation of convenience, search for snacks that are around 600kj or less per serve, 5g or less of saturated fat, less than 15g of sugar per 100g (or not listed in the top three ingredients) and less than 200mg of sodium.
Here are some examples of what a simple, balanced, minimal-fuss lunch box looks like:
Lunch box one: Sandwich on grainy bread with avocado, lettuce, carrot and chicken; a banana; a snack based on core food groups (a pot of natural
“BAKE UP BATCHES OF HEALTHY MUFFINS, SLICES AND BARS ON THE WEEKENDS.”
yoghurt and homemade muesli slice); and a bottle of water.
Lunch box two: Egg and lettuce on a wholemeal wrap; an apple; celery and carrot sticks with grated cheese and sugar-free wholemeal pikelets; and a bottle of water.
Lunch box three: Wholemeal pita pocket filled with tuna, avocado, lettuce, carrot and cheese; a mandarin; a boiled egg, 10-12 sultanas and homemade sugar-free banana mini muffin; and a bottle of water or plain UHT milk popper.
Of course, if your child is active and sporty then compensate for the extra energy burned by adding larger portions or another snack from the core food groups. Bake up batches of healthy muffins, slices and bars on the weekends, wrap in portion sizes and store in the freezer and your daily dilemma will be a thing of the past.