Recommended eating habits for children have changed a lot over the last few years with a general trend towards ‘clean eating’ - the consumption of food in its natural, rather than a processed state.
Thinking of healthy and enjoyable lunchbox fillings is a daily challenge. Coupled with an increase of heavily marketed, processed food options filling the supermarket shelves, it’s easy to create a lunchbox that is high in excitement but low in nutrition. Most children are eating too much sugar, salt and saturated fats and too few daily portions of fruit vegetables and protein.
So as we pack our little ones back off to school this September, what should a balanced lunchbox contain?
• Starchy foods – wholemeal bread, rice, potatoes, pasta. These foods are good tummy fillers and provide lots of energy.
• Protein-rich foods - fish, lean meat, beans, eggs to accompany the starchy fillers.
• Dairy items - Yoghurt, cheese or Fromage Frais for example. Watch the sugar content though!
• At least one of their 5-a-day – vegetables, salad or a portion of fruit.
How do you add in some excitement to entice them into eating these healthy options though?
• Finger food - Children often like to eat bite-sized pieces with their fingers so chop up meat, vegetables and cheese and add some wholegrain crackers. A dip like hummus is a good way of adding protein too.
• Be inventive- Use shaped cookie cutters to cut up sandwiches into fun shapes they’ll be showing off to their friends.
• All wrapped up – Use fun containers, utensils or wrapping to make eating healthy treats more exciting.
• Homemade treats - Why not make a fruit cup of their favourite fruit or some small jellies with real fruit pieces. Even better, get them to help with making it.
And what to drink? Water, water, water! Fruit juices and other drinks aimed at children can contain large amounts of sugar.
It may take a while for children to get used to their new, healthier lunchbox but persevere - it will benefit them in the long-run.