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A guide to healthy school lunch boxes
As a busy parent you can be forgiven for running short of ideas of what to pack each day to give your kids a healthy yet appealing lunchbox. Ideally, a healthy lunchbox will be a mix of nutritious fibre and protein rich foods so young growing bodies get all the energy they need for the busy school day, as well as child friendly options that you will not find at the bottom of their school bag. So if you are in need of some lunchbox inspiration here is an easy guide that will help you achieve lunchbox success with foods they will look forward to eating!
1. Wholegrain sandwich or wrap
Where possible, choose grain or brown bread or you may find that wraps are a preferred option as they are easier to eat and less likely to go soggy. Always try and add a protein rich filling to your child’s sandwich – egg, lean meat or cheese are some good options. Protein rich fillings offer a number of important nutrients including iron, zinc and Vitamin B12. Light salads such as lettuce can also be added, or alternatively try packing some carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes in small containers to be munched on throughout the day. If you are worried about the freshness, pack an ice block or make the sandwiches fresh the night before.
2. Fruit & at least one vegetable
Fresh fruit is always preferable to dried, fruit sticks or juice, as it contains fewer kilojoules, more fibre and teaches children the importance of eating fresh food. While fruit does contain natural sugars, the overall lunchbox balance will ensure that this amount is kept controlled. Good options include; bananas since they have their own natural packaging, small apples, pears or mandarins, or some berries in a small container. Adding a vegetable in addition to a piece of fruit helps to get children used to eating lower sugar, nutrient rich vegetables so always add some cut up carrot, cucumber, baby tomatoes, snow peas or red capsicum to your child’s lunch, whether they eat it or not.
3. Protein snack
Protein is the nutrient that tends to be missed in school lunchboxes and is often replaced with extra fruit, juice or more snacks. Protein rich foods including milk and cheese offer calcium and a number of other key nutrients including magnesium and phosphorous, which all growing children need daily. Great protein rich lunchbox fillers include cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, milk protein based snack bars, and milk poppers! These options are popular with children and are also low GI, which helps to keep kids fuller for longer. Cheese in particular is a great lunchbox snack for kids as consuming it after eating carbohydrate rich foods, such as bread and fruit, will help to prevent tooth decay by helping to neutralize the acid in the mouth that can come from juice drinks and refined sugars.
4. Nutritious Snack
Busy, growing bodies do need energy, but they need good quality energy, and many processed snack and muesli bars available do not contain a lot of nutrition for many kilojoules. While children do not necessarily need packaged snack foods, not providing them may see kids swapping their lunchbox contents for other, more appealing options! Aim to provide just one packaged muesli or snack bar in your child’s lunchbox each day and try and choose options that have < 400kJ (100 calories). An even better option (if you can find time) is to bake a batch of healthy banana muffins or banana bread each weekend so you have a yummy, healthy, homemade lunchbox filler for the week ahead.
Water should always be the drink of choice for children. Fruit juice, soft drinks, sports drinks, and cordials are high in sugar and are not appropriate everyday drinks for children.
2 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup low fat milk
1 tablespoon light olive oil
2 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
1. Mix flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar in a bowl with mashed banana, vanilla essence, eggs, milk and oil.
2. Spoon mixture into loaf tin
3. Bake at 180°C for ~50-60 minutes, or until cooked through
Oaty Carrot & Banana Muffins
Makes 12 muffins or 24 mini muffins
1 1/2 cups oats
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 cup carrot, grated
1/2 cup zucchini, grated
1 egg, beaten
2 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup olive oil or butter
1 cup milk
1. Mix muesli, flour, sugar, carrot, and zucchini into a bowl
2. Combine egg, oil and milk and add to dry ingredients
3. Spoon mixture into muffin tins
4. Bake at 190°C for 20 minutes, or until cooked through
Susie is currently a brand ambassador for Australian Bananas. To learn more about the partnership, click here.