Healthy lunch box tips for busy parents
Consider these lunch box tips from a dietitian for a healthy start for your kids' new school year.
Kids are back at school and mornings are busy enough without the daily dilemma and stress of what to put in your kids’ lunch box. So to help make mornings a little smoother, Lite n’ Easy dietitian Larissa Robbins has put together some quick and easy tips to help you prepare a nutritionally balanced lunch box that your kids will love!
Although it is often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, a healthy lunch is equally important. A nutritious lunch box gives children ‘bounce’ for the playground and brain power for the classroom.
Preparation is key
Try to prepare lunches the night before or even commit to some prep time over the weekend. Boiling eggs, making mini quiches or cutting veggie sticks and fruit salad, can mean that you’ve got healthy, ready to go options. You’ll also be less likely to be frazzled and pack a better, healthier lunch when you’re not rushing to get out the door.
It’s important to offer a lunchbox that has plenty of variety. Not only will this help with boredom and prevent food coming home uneaten, but it will also ensure your child is getting plenty of nutrients from the recommended food groups.
A healthy lunchbox should include:
- Vegetables. This can look like veggie sticks with dip, a salad or grilled corn cobs. Wedges of sweet potato and steamed broccoli florets are all easily transported and can be served cold or at room temperature.
- Fruit. If whole pieces of fruit return home at the end of the day, you might need to get creative with how you cut it. Little hands love small, bite sized pieces of fruit so experiment with fun shapes like orange segments, watermelon cubes, frozen grapes, blueberries or fruit kebabs.
- One protein snack, such as cheese or yoghurt. Try freezing yoghurt pouches or milk poppers and add grated cheese or cream cheese to muffins. Mini quiches are also a great lunchbox snack that are packed full of protein.
- One main item like a wrap or sandwich with a protein such as cold meat, chicken or egg. Pasta or rice dishes are also great options that can be made in advance.
- Water to drink. To keep kids interested when it comes to plain water, look for a snazzy drink bottle to make drinking water more fun!
Packing up leftovers from dinner is a great way to keep to a budget, prevent waste and provide nutritious meals. If you don’t routinely have leftovers from dinner, cook an extra portion of your main protein dish and vegetables to ensure there are leftovers for the next day. Having cold pasta for lunch or using leftover roast chicken and salad on a sandwich are nutritious and tasty options.
Include a bottle of water
Water is the best drink option for kids. Sweetened drinks like juice and cordial contain too much sugar, so save these as a treat for the weekend. Freeze a small portion the night before and top up with cold water in the morning to stay cold for longer. You can also add some pieces of fruit to give some natural flavour.
What not to pack
Keep “treat” foods such snack food bars, fruit ‘straps’, sweet biscuits, flavoured or coated popcorn and savoury biscuits and chips out of the lunch box. Although they can offer a practical convenient solution, they should not replace the core snack and should be kept for special occasions.
5 great reasons to create a healthy lunchbox
- Smart kids – many studies have proven the link between eating a nutritious diet and improved brain performance.
- Active kids – a healthy lunch and snacks will keep kids feeling energetic all day and avoid the afternoon slump.
- Healthy weight – eating nutritious foods, and keeping processed foods to a minimum, will help ensure kids maintain a healthy weight.
- Healthy bodies – a balanced diet means healthy bones, teeth, immune function and countless other health benefits.
- Healthy habits for life – kids who eat well at an early age are more likely to maintain healthy habits through adolescence and adulthood.
Make the morning rush a little easier and save time by having your own healthy, delicious and convenient meals on hand in the fridge and freezer. Setting a good example with your lunches can help encourage children when choosing their own healthy options. Lite n’ Easy has a variety of options to suit all tastes and budgets. Our meals are great for when you’re on the go by giving you everything you need. We even have smaller meal options that make a delicious, healthy meal for the kids.
Larissa Robbins is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with extensive experience working across Australia and the UK in the food industry, corporate health, hospitals and private practice. She specialises in the area of weight management, gastrointestinal disorders and chronic disease management. Larissa is passionate about helping people live their healthiest lives through the power of food and nutrition.