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A collective groan is audible at the thought of another school year of having to prepare school lunches. As annoying as it is, healthy food at school is vital to fuel the brain for a full day’s learning.
Here are some tips to help fuel your kids’ brains by providing healthy food for school.
- Breakfast – kids need it. Young people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight, and can concentrate better in class. Breakfast doesn’t have to be when kids first wake; take the time pressure off, and think of it as a healthy boost for their brain before their first class starts. Cereal with milk, a cheese & tomato toastie, date and pecan muffin, fruit with yoghurt & muesli, or a nutritious smoothie can be consumed at the table, the bus stop, walking to school, or even at school, to ensure they get the fuel they need.
- Don’t overthink the lunch box – kids don’t need gourmet, they need quick, easy, healthy food in their lunch box. Keep it simple, and not too much… the equivalent of a sandwich and a piece of fruit is all they need. Some kids can feel overwhelmed when there is too much food, that they don’t even start.
- If only my kids would eat a sandwich! Many kids don’t like sandwiches, so wraps are a great alternative. Choose wholegrain where possible, and include some protein (nut butters, cheese, cold meats, egg, tofu), and some veggies (carrots, cucumber, capsicum, cherry tomatoes etc) – either altogether in the wrap, or all separate, to be assembled at the time (saves soggy wraps).
- Rice paper wraps are another option, easy to make and quick to eat, plus a gluten free option for those who have coeliac disease. Use left over chicken or pork as the protein, rice noodles (make a batch and freeze in small portions), carrot, cucumber, capsicum and hoisin sauce. Wrap in baking paper to stop from sticking.
- A lunch box with finger food options works a treat for kids who want to get eating over with and play. Small home made scrolls with cheese, vegemite, bacon bits, or all 3, can be made ahead of time and frozen,; couple with some veggie sticks and fruit, or yoghurt and the lunch box is done.
- In the cooler weather, left overs are a great option. Buy a good quality thermos, warm with boiling water (5 mins), then heat left over spag bol, stir fries, lasagne, etc, pack the thermo with a piece of fruit or veg sticks.
- Buying a bento box or similar saves on packaging. I bought my kids 2 each at the start of kindergarten, and 7 years on, we are still using them.
- Packaged foods such as muesli bars are convenient, but many contain a lot of hidden sugars and salt, and also contribute extra litter in our environment. Kids often like to bake, so try and prepare some healthy slices, scrolls and biscuits on the weekend, to save on packaging and give a healthier alternative.
- Be wise with food safety and wash hands before food prep, for cold lunches include an ice brick, and for hot, ensure the thermo can hold the heat for the number of hours required.
- After school is out, be ready with some nutritious snacks.
Jo Allan - Accredited Sports Dietition
Need more ideas about healthy foods to add to the kids lunchboxes, or need food ideas for children with specific conditions such as Diabetes or Coeliac? Book in with Coast Sport Dietitian Jo Allan today by clicking the button below!