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

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | WELLBEING - KARLA GIL­BERT Cham­pion iron­woman and ocean ath­lete Karla Gil­bert is an ac­cred­ited Nutri­tion and Health Coach and Level III and IV Fit­ness Trainer, with cer­tifi­cates in Child Nutri­tion and Nutri­tion. She is the au­thor of Naked Habits. READ MORE AT kar­lagil

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.

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