Tips for Building a Healthy Lunchbox
As our kids return to school this week, for many of us, that means a return to lunchbox making. This year, we’ll pack around 200 lunchboxes, per child (give or take a few; I’m definitely partial to a canteen order once a week!). That’s quite a lot of lunchboxes! And over the course of a week, your child will eat around 30% of their daily intake of food at school. As a Nutritionist, I see that as a great (& essential!) opportunity to get them eating food that will support their learning, their immune system, and their growth & behaviour.
A healthy, wholefood lunchbox will;
- Support your child’s focus and attention
- Provide your child with a stable release of energy
- Support your child’s blood sugars to foster a more stable mood
- Meet your child’s nutrient needs for healthy growth & immune function
Here are my top tips for building a wholefood lunchbox for you child:
#1 Keep it simple
Wholefoods don’t have to be fancy, or complicated. Simply swapping a supermarket sandwich loaf for a good quality wholemeal sourdough is a great step to improving the nutrition in a sandwich. Do they like ham? Great. Try adding some avocado to it, as well. And then, some grated carrot and eventually lettuce, too. Build it up slowly, and by the end of the year, your child could be eating a ham & salad sandwich!
#2 Include a serve of protein
Adding a serve of protein to your child’s lunchbox will help keep them feeling full (preventing those after school hangries!) and is also needed for their immune health and growth. Think leftover meat, roasted chickpeas, eggs, grilled tofu, quinoa.
#3 Include a serve of healthy fats
Fats are essential to our brain health and our ability to concentrate and learn, so these are so good to include in a lunchbox. Think avocado, seeds (& nuts if permitted at the school), eggs.
#4 Include plenty of high fibre foods
Fibre is so under rated when discussing our nutritional needs, but it is critical to our gut health and also really helpful in keeping us feeling full, and slowing the release of energy from our food. Most of us don’t eat enough fibre, and most kids don’t eat enough vegetable-based fibre. We find our fibre in vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and legumes and for optimal health, we want to be eating a wide variety of fibre. Try to add some veggie sticks and a piece of fruit to your child’s lunchbox every day.
#5 Pack it in plastic free
Opt for stainless steel lunch and drink containers, where you can, or bamboo, or BPA free plastic. The reason is that most plastic (plastic wrap and containers) have components in them that can leech into our food and, over time, disrupt our kids’ hormone health.
Leave out any processed, packaged food wherever you can – generally, processed food that comes in a packet provides a hit of quick release energy (due it’s refined carbohydrate content) and very, very little in the way of actual nutrition.
Would you like a high-fibre, healthy-fat & protein-rich lunchbox idea? What about these quinoa muffins! They freeze well, so you can make a batch and keep a supply in the freezer for hassle-free lunchbox packing. They even contain a hit of green vegetables.
Quinoa Egg Muffins
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup cheese (we use parmesan)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 shallots, finely diced
1 cup baby spinach
1 zucchini, finely grated
Handful parsley, finely chopped
Combine all the ingredients, scoop into patty pans in a greased muffin tray, & pop into a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes.
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