Returning to school sees the return of packing lunch boxes. At Optimum Intake we know this can be a stressful, daily chore for parents. Getting the balance between exciting lunches and healthy options can be a challenge. Check out our tips below to get this school year off to a great start.
Start with the right equipment
Choose a practical lunch box that fits what your child needs.
- Think about their skill level opening containers or packaging
- Choose a lunch box or bag large enough to fit all their food in it. This helps a child to see their options for the whole day at school. You’ll thank us later when you’re not finding 3-day old sandwiches or squashed bananas at the bottom of school bags!
Practise at home
- If your child is just starting school it is a good idea to get them used to the idea of a lunch box, choosing what foods to have when and the time frame they will have to eat it in. Practise this at home in the lead up to starting school
- Test out new foods at home as snack options after school or on weekends. This gets children familiar with foods that are different and allows you to see their reaction.
- Ensure that cold foods remain cold with use of ice bricks and cooler bags
- Freezing water bottles can be a great way to keep lunch boxes cool
- Freezing food items such as yoghurt pouches can be another way to keep lunch boxes cool
- Encourage your child to consume higher risk foods such as dairy or meat options earlier in the day
Focus on core food group
Good nutrition can help a child to concentrate and thrive in the classroom. It will also give them enough energy to grow and play with friends. A good lunchbox will include a variety of food groups. This includes:
- Wholegrain Breads/ Cereals
- Water to drink
The amount your child needs will depend on their age, sex and how active they are.
Here are some ideas for how to include a variety of food groups in your child’s lunchbox:
- Boiled egg
- Hummus, tzatziki dip
- Zucchini Slice
- Cheese, cream cheese
- Cooked chicken breast pieces
- Savoury muffins
- Vegetable sticks, mini cucumbers/ tomatoes, ants on a log. Add a dip with these such as hummus or tzatziki to appeal to their taste buds
- Include vegetables in baked good such as carrot and apple muffins, black bean brownies or chick pea blondies
- Cutting fruit up is known to increase consumption of fruit
- Make “energy balls” with dried fruit. See our social media for Choco Snowballs (nut and dairy free)
- Add fruit to baked goods such as muffins or pikelets
- Choose grainy/brown bread. If your child won’t eat this trial a high fibre white bread (available at most supermarkets)
- Trial alternate bread options such as wraps, pinwheel sandwiches, mini bread rolls
- Trial alternate grain options such as rice or pasta for lunch. These will keep cooked in the fridge for 2 days. Ensure they are kept cool in your child’s lunch box
- Mixed options such as a zucchini slice (includes flour as source of grains) may be more enticing for some children
- Take the pressure off! The wholegrain does not have to be the main offering in your child’s lunch. Including a small amount amongst options from other food groups that your child enjoys may be adequate to meet their needs.
Kids eat with their eyes
- Including different colours and shapes is exciting for children (and adults!)
- Try out some new options alongside familiar favourites. A whole new lunchbox can be overwhelming a reduces the likelihood that your child will want to eat.
- Bento Box style lunch boxes are a great way for children to see what is on offer and make choices for themselves
There’s no need to write out a full term’s lunch box plan, however, planning some options for your child to have each week may save you a lot of stress come time to pack a lunch box.
- Keeping the cupboards full will make it easier when it comes to packing a lunchbox
- Ensure you plan a few snack options and lunch ideas before heading to the supermarket
Make use of packaged items where needed.
- There are some great packaged/ pre-made options available at supermarkets that can make things easier for you. Include packaged options alongside other foods. Some options to look out for may include:
- Diced fruit
- Dried fruit
- Cheese and crackers (in cold section)
- Mini tubs of dip (in cold section)
- Packaged yoghurts
- Roasted chick peas (in health food section)
- Quick cups of rice
- Consider preparing some options of a weekend/ evening. This may help to make mornings less stressful! Options you could prepare ahead of time may include:
- Cutting up vegetables or fruit and storing in a large container
- Preparing 1 x baked item/ week
- Cooking rice or pasta as a lunch option
- Boiling some eggs
Be a role model
- Your children are learning about food and eating every day. Role modelling “normal eating” will help your child to develop this skill too.
- Packing similar foods for your own lunch or eating similar foods at snack times can help to build your child’s confidence around new and different foods.
Remember – Parents provide and kids decide. Giving your child the opportunity to have a healthy, balanced lunch box won’t guarantee that they eat it all. It will give them the chance to explore new foods and develop lifelong healthy eating patterns.
Looking for further advice? We’d love to work with you and your child!
Book in to see one of our Paediatric Dietitians today for personalised advice on your child’s nutrition needs.