Every week parents around the world prepare lunches for their children to take to school. There are many different thoughts on what children should eat, and of course what they want to eat. In recent years there has been a change to convenience foods and processed snacks which are high in sugar.
The importance of balanced nutrition
Many nutritionists and teachers will tell you how important it is that children have healthy lunches. Children who lack adequate nutrition have more problems focusing, while those who eat healthy lunches will have the energy to concentrate and learn at a higher level. Preparing nutritious lunches can also save money and be a good learning tool for children to make healthy food choices.
When preparing lunches it is also important to ensure the food will be kept cool to prevent bacteria forming. Chiller bags with small ice packs or even frozen drinks can help to keep meals at the correct temperature.
Essential food groups
Of course, this partially depends on food allergies not only of your child, but of other children at their school.
The five main food groups are:
Dairy – Great source of calcium, which is vital for the development of strong and healthy bones.
Grains – High-fibre grains including pasta, cereal and noodles are better than refined products like cakes and biscuits. Refined grains are often higher in sugar and salt.
Protein – Lean meats, eggs, fish, nuts and seeds are essential to maintain and repair our body tissues and also for the production of haemoglobin and adrenalin.
Fruit – Provides vitamins and fibre as well as natural sugars.
Vegetables – Including beans and legumes also provide vitamins and fibre important for growth and development.
Dealing with fussy eaters
Sometimes the little darlings just don’t want to eat what we make for them. A good way to encourage their healthy eating habits is to let them help plan what they will have for lunch. Let them have choices, but keep it to two or three options as too many can be daunting.
From a young age it is important to slowly introduce new flavours one at a time. Strong and intense tastes may not agree with young palates. Giving young children too much sugar leads to bad food choices as they grow older. Using sweets or fast food as a reward also leads to unhealthy eating patterns.
Keep it simple with small sandwiches
Use individual easy-to-open bags for each
Freeze drinks the night before to help keep the food cool.
Wash lunch containers well every day to prevent bacteria build-up.
Preparing lunches in advance can save time and money.
Insulated lunchboxes keep food fresh
Encourage children to drink water throughout the day.
Homemade snacks such as muesli bars and muffins are nutritious and also a great way to get children involved in their food choices.
Keep it simple, keep it interesting.