Sending your children off to school goes beyond getting their uniforms ready, and making sure they’ve had their breakfast, and their hair brushed. When you’re responsible for getting a schoolie’s day prepped and ready, school lunch is very important.
Lunch is an important point in the school day and should provide at least a third of your child’s daily requirements – without it youngsters struggle to concentrate in the afternoon. Pack plenty of sustaining, nutritious options to make the school day a productive one.
So what goes into making the perfect school lunch that’s not only affordable and fulfilling, but also super nutritious? One thing to remember is VARIETY. Variety is key when prepping your child’s lunch.
Your child’s lunch should be a mixture of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy; be colourful too!
Tips for preparing a nutritious school lunch that your child will want to eat:
- Be colourful! A variety of colour (orange carrots, broccoli and red grapes, for example) and textures appeal to kids.
- Include finger foods if your child loves to eat with his or her hands. (Remind your child to wash his or her hands before eating.)
- Don’t forget the water.
- Make sure to include something dairy (maybe a small Indomilk or milo?)
- Peel and slice the fruit and avoid using fruits with seeds.
- Pack healthy foods the child enjoys as well as new foods.
- Disguise vegetables in a soup or stew if your child is anti-veggie (crackers & dip is a great idea)
If you are having trouble getting your child to eat the lunch you pack for them, try involving them in the planning. Have options placed out for them to choose, children are more likely to try foods that they themselves selected and made.
A variety of colours packed in a child’s lunchbox would have them excited to try eating the food you have packed especially for them. Carrots, celery, Oranges; even a nice peanut salad would be lovely for your child.
You’ve probably noticed that some food labels display the percentage of your Guideline Daily Amount (GDAs) that the food supplies – many manufacturers show these figures to help you make sense of the information on the label. GDAs are a guide to the amount of calories and nutrients an adult or child may have as part of a balanced, healthy diet. Remember, we all vary in size and activity levels so these figures are only a guide, but they can help you to see how much a food is contributing to your child’s daily diet.
Ideal options include water, pure 100 per cent fruit juice, milk or yogurt-based drinks (with less than 5 per cent added sugar).
• Yogurt/fromage frais, child-size pots vary from 50-100g.
• Hard cheese like cheddar, approximately 15g-20g.
• Soft cheese, approximately 20-25g.?
• Glass of milk, approximately 150-175ml.
Calcium is essential for bone-building. Good sources are milk, cheese, yogurt and fromage frais, as well as green leafy veg and canned fish.
Protein is important for helping your child to grow. It will also keep them feeling fuller for longer. Good choices include skinless chicken, oily fish, eggs and dairy foods, as well as beans and pulses for vegetarians. Give your child the amount they can fit in the palm of their hand.
Aim for two portions of fruit and veg, with at least one being veg or salad. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned or you can use a juice – they all count.
Such as bread, noodles, pasta, rice or potatoes. These are important for energy and should make up a third of their lunchbox – opt for wholegrain versions or, for sandwiches, try one of the high-fibre ‘white’ breads.
The amount your child can fit in the palm of their hand – typically one small apple or banana, or three or four cherry tomatoes.
For fruit and veg, it is advisable that you choose those that are in season.
Ultimately, for those of you parents and guardians that are caught between the options of preparing food for your child, and buying from the school canteen, home meals have always been the best. Saves money, healthier, and taste a whole lot better; and coming from a child, it screams a whole lot of love, plus it helps contribute towards getting better grades in school.