My essentials for a healthy, nourishing lunchbox
Very soon our kids will be back to school. Going hand in hand with this is the need to send our kids off to school with a lunchbox filled with nourishing, healthy foods to keep them fuelled for a day of learning, activity, fun and play. So to help you know what to pack in a healthy lunchbox I’ve put together a quick list of the essential elements.
Fruits are full of essential nutrients like Vitamin C and bioflavonoids necessary for boosting immune function, carbohydrates providing energy, and fibre essential for maintaining good gut health. Choose any fruit your child enjoys but limit to one-two servings per day. Ones like bananas, apples, grapes, mandarins are favourites. Add them whole or chop into smaller pieces. It’s probably best to avoid really juicy fruits, like oranges and mango, if your child is likely to get all sticky and messy. You may find some teachers don’t encourage these, especially for ‘Crunch & Sip’ in the classroom.
Vegetables, yes I know this might be tricky but slipping in vegetables throughout the day including lunchboxes is necessary to ensure that your child gets the recommended vegetable intake for the day. Vegetables contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals, essential for so many functions in the body ranging from immune health to concentration and learning to growth and development. Aim for a range of colours; think about cucumber, tomatoes, capsicum, broccoli. Slip some veggies into a sandwich, or a homemade muffin. Vary the way you present – dice, slice, spiralise, raw, cooked and so on.
Think chicken, cheese, seeds, meatballs, fish, eggs, yoghurt and more. But do stay away from processed versions like several pre-sliced meats (like Devon), packaged meat pies & sausage rolls etc that are full of additives and preservatives and probably very little actual meat. Avoid flavoured yoghurts/custards too as these are likely to have lots of added sugar; simply flavour your own natural yoghurt instead. Providing your child with protein foods will assist their growth and development but will also help them feel full for longer periods of time.
So knowing which fats are good can be a little tricky and confusing so I suggest choosing avocadoes, olive oil, butter, fish and seeds and definitely reducing and even avoiding processed/packaged foods to reduce their intake of the unhealthy fats. Your child needs healthy fats to assist with their brain development, hormone development, skin health and nutrient absorption. Add a dash of olive oil (and lemon) to the veggies, spread avocado onto a sandwich or a mix of lightly toasted seeds into a snack pot.
This is probably most important of all! Involve your child in the choosing of foods to go into their lunchbox. Bake a special, healthy treat together on the weekend to use for the week ahead. Include only foods that you know your child will eat (I always recommend trying new foods but save this for an afterschool snack or another meal at home). If they feel anxious about the foods in their lunchbox, whether it’s something new or just different to their friends, they are less likely to eat it. If you are still relying heavily on processed foods, read the labels to choose ‘the healthiest option’.
A note on grains – I don’t include grains in my essential lists as I believe there is an over-dependency on grains, especially the sandwich, in lunchbox foods and for some people, grains may not suit them at all. Every one is different. I recommend we all minimise or stay away from the highly processed white grains, like white bread, and suggest mixing it up a bit. Include brown rice, wholegrain pasta, wholegrain bread, oats, spelt, buckwheat etc to give variety to your child’s lunchboxes.
Filling your child’s lunchbox with nourishing foods doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Plan ahead, using these ideas to help you.