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Three simple tips for healthier lunchboxes

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 Were your children’s school lunchboxes looking a little lackluster by the end of the school year?

There are so many different things to consider when it comes to packing school lunches that many of us find ourselves stuck for ideas. But don’t be intimidated by Pinterest images that suggest you need to make a work of art out of every single lunch.

Here are three simple tips for nutritious and healthier lunchboxes this school year.

STICK TO THE CORE FOUR

It goes without saying nowadays that eating healthier has lifelong health benefits, but we also know that children who eat well are better placed to participate and succeed at school. It’s a no-brainer to pack them off with a tasty and nutritious lunch.

Fresh Tastes, an ACT government program working in primary schools, provides some great ideas on their website. Check them out here.

Include ‘the core four’:

  • a main lunch item
  • a nutritious snack
  • easy-to-eat veggies such as cherry tomatoes or carrot sticks
  • a drink.

(Tip: add an additional snack for active and fast-growing kids.)

For the main lunch item, look to include a sandwich, roll, wrap, or salad based on grains like pasta, rice, or quinoa. Leftovers are also an excellent option, especially those that contain protein, vegetable and grains.

“Kids love what they’re familiar with,” says Kate Freeman, Registered Nutritionist and founder of The Healthy Eating Hub. “So keeping food variety high at home will make it easier to keep food variety high in the lunch box.”

“Kids also love foods that are easy to eat, with packets or containers that aren’t too difficult to open – let’s face it – they’d rather be playing!”

“Kids love picking their own food, so bento style lunch boxes are always a hit,” adds Kate. “Lots of different finger foods from different food groups to snack on throughout the day! Snacks like boiled eggs, slices of low-fat cheese, chicken strips, fresh fruit, vegie sticks and wholegrain crackers can all be offered in bento style lunch boxes.”

If you’ve got more time Lisa Donaldson, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and CEO of Feed Inc suggests a ‘core four’ lunchbox can look like:

  • A hummus and cucumber sandwich on wholemeal bread, a snack of cheese with wholegrain crackers, an apple, 200ml of juice diluted with water, and some unsalted popcorn
  • Leftover stir fry loaded with vegies, lean meat, and brown rice, a snack of yoghurt with berries, a vegie box (carrots, mini cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snow peas and beans), a water bottle, and a fruit spice English muffin.
  • Meat balls (or falafel) with salad in a wrap, a snack of cucumber or vegie sticks with hummus, a banana, water and a muesli bar with a Health Star Rating of 4 stars or above.

SHOP FOR HEALTHY GRAB ‘N’ GO OPTIONS

We’re often encouraged to feed children minimally processed food, but with our busy lifestyles this can feel impossible to achieve.

For Kate, it’s all about lunchbox hacks – items that cut out the work on your end while still being nutritionally dense.

“Grab a cooked BBQ chicken then discard the skin and stuffing and shred up the meat for sandwiches, wraps, salads or finger food,” she says, adding that there are heaps of grab ‘n’ go snacks ready and waiting on supermarket shelves.

“Lightly salted or unsalted popcorn, wholegrain rice crackers with individual tubs of hummus and pre-cut carrot and celery sticks – many supermarkets offer these options now,” she says, adding that an obvious option is fresh fruit that requires no preparation, such as bananas, mandarins, apples, pears, strawberries.

For Lisa, it’s about balancing convenience with freshness.

“Having some nutritious ‘grab and go’ choices for the lunchbox can be extremely helpful,” says Lisa. “My food philosophy is to eat minimal processed foods, so I try and opt for items that read like they are homemade. These work well as snacks on route to kids’ after-school activities—especially on hot days when fresher items can perish.”

Some of Lisa’s top choices include muesli bars and yoghurts.

“Some muesli bars have as much energy as a chocolate bar, so it really makes sense to shop carefully for a decent muesli bar,” she explains. “Look for those labelled with at least four health stars or those on the shelves marked with the Healthier Choices Canberra signs in your local independent supermarket.”

“When it comes to yoghurts, my number one tip is to look at the sugar per 100g. Aim for less than 15g of sugar per 100g. Ideally, use a natural yoghurt and top with some fresh berries or a little honey for sweetness.”

The Grab ‘n Go school lunchbox shopping list on the parents section of the Fresh Tastes website has some fantastic ideas to give you a hand with what to pack straight into your kid’s lunchbox with little or no prep.

Download it here and put it on your fridge or take it to the supermarket for inspiration.

GO WASTE-FREE

As a society, we’re becoming so much more aware of the effects that single use plastics and waste have on the planet.

Luckily, there are plenty of brands who have responded to consumer demand with environmentally friendly, affordable options for reducing waste. Using beeswax wraps or recyclable foil for sandwiches and containers to transport yoghurt instead of single serve containers can go a long way in minimising harm to the environment.

“Getting a good lunchbox with a cooler bag and ice brick is well worth the investment,” says Lisa.

“I use a container that has a freezable insert to keep my son’s yoghurt cool all day. It also means I can buy 1-litre tubs of yoghurt, divvy it up across the week, and save some money.”

For Kate it’s about making sure reusable options work for you.

“Use sandwich containers instead of snap lock bags or cling wrap and invest in reusable containers that the kids can use,” she says. “Some smaller kids struggle to open containers, so make sure that they can, otherwise they’ll have a hungry day at school.”

So, to help you find nutritious choices for your families look for the Healthier Choices Canberra logo at local independent supermarkets, or download the Grab ‘n Go school lunchbox shopping list here.

This is a sponsored editorial. For more information on sponsored editorials, click here.  

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