Coming up with new and exciting ideas for healthy lunchboxes can be difficult, especially if you have a child that’s quite particular about what they eat. The advantage with preparing a lunchbox rather than giving your child a school meal is that you can at least make sure it contains foods which they will eat. What’s in your child’s lunchbox is very important, a lunch that is high in fat, salt and refined carbohydrates will diminish their mental alertness and they are more likely to end up tired towards the end of the day.
So what’s in a healthy lunchbox?
Sandwiches containing chicken, egg, ham, tuna or cheese are an excellent source of protein. Try using different sorts of bread, including pitta bread and wholemeal bread.
Choose complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, pasta, banana or rice.. Try a lovely tuna and bean salad or rice salad with vegetables. These types of carbohydrates will release calories slowly and help keep energy levels up.
Calcium is very important for children under the age of five, so choose whole-milk products such as Greek-style yoghurt rather than low-fat yoghurt.. Lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis later in life, so make sure that you regularly include dairy products in your child’s lunchbox. Cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais, yoghurt drinks, smoothies and milkshakes are all excellent sources of calcium.
Fruit and vegetables
Health experts recommend that we include five portions of fruit and vegetables in our diet every day. Whole fruit may not be that appealing to youngsters, so try preparing a fruit salad with 2 or 3 different fruits. Dried fruits such as apricots and raisins are an excellent healthy snack. Children will leave food if it takes a lot of effort to eat so rather than putting in a whole orange which will take them ages to peel try cutting into segments and then wrap in cling film to keep it fresh. Vegetable sticks are very easy to eat (you could also put in some hummous for a dip). Try wrapping vegetable sticks in damp kitchen towel – this will keep them fresher.
Try to avoid too much salt in the lunchbox. Many processed foods such as processed ham, crisps and cheese strings are surprisingly high in salt.
Ensure salads remain crisp. When making salads it’s a good idea to keep the salad dressing separate and let your child pour it over the salad himself to prevent it from going soggy.
If your child continually brings back certain foods uneaten, leave it out of the lunchbox (even if only for a few weeks) and substitute it for something else. Ask them what they would like to see in their instead – of course this may take some compromise!
Prepare what you can the night before, this will save you time in the morning.
Keep food at the right temperature. A mini thermos flask is perfect for homemade soup in the winter. If you have included a salad, enclose a frozen drink or ice pack to keep it cool.
Try not to include too much junk. There’s no harm in putting in some crisps every so often but maybe just put a few in a little pot, or wrapped in foil – rather than putting in the whole packet. Home made muffins and cookies are a lovely treat and needn’t be full of sugar or nasties. Plain popcorn or breadsticks are a fun and tasty alternative to crisps and sweets.
Most of all, try to make lunchtime fun. Try putting in fun napkins , enclose a little joke or some stickers. Cut their sandwiches into funny shapes with cookie cutters. If you do get time to do any cooking with the children at the weekend then make sure you put whatever they have made in their lunchbox. They will enjoy it even more if they know they made it.
http://www.healthylunchbox.co.uk has some excellent information on putting together healthy lunchboxes, including a lunch planner.