Thanks to Jamie Oliver, school dinners have had a radical overhaul. But what about the lunchboxes we pack for our children?
It’s just as important to make sure the lunchboxes that children take to school provide a healthy, balanced lunch.
This means plenty of foods that contain the nutrients that children need, and fewer foods that are high in sugar and saturated fat.
Packing the lunchbox.
A balanced packed lunch should contain:
- Starchy foods. These are bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, and others.
- Protein foods. These are meat, fish, eggs, beans and others.
- A dairy item. This could be cheese or yoghurt.
- Vegetables or salad, and a portion of fruit.
Starchy foods are a good source of energy, and should make up a third of the lunchbox. But don’t let things get boring. Instead of sandwiches give kids bagels, pitta bread, wraps and baguettes. Use brown, wholemeal or seeded bread, not white bread.
Children often like food they can eat with their fingers, so chop up raw veggies such as carrots or peppers, and give them houmous or cottage cheese to dip the veggies in. Breadsticks and wholemeal crackers are great finger foods and they can be spread with low-fat soft cheese or eaten with reduced-fat cheddar and pickles.
Replace chocolate bars and cakes with fresh fruit, dried fruit or unsalted nuts. Vary the fruit each day and get them to try new things, like kiwi or melon.
You could also make up a tasty fruit salad. Be inventive and encourage your children when they try something new.
Making the change
It may take a while for your children to get used to a healthier lunchbox. But it will be worth it for their health, so keep trying.
You can help by eating a wider range of foods at home, as a family. For ideas on how to introduce more fruit and vegetables into your family’s diet, read 5 A DAY and your family.
Reading supermarket food labels can help you to buy healthier foods for your child's lunch, and for family meal times. Learn more in Buy healthier food.
Chocolate and cakes can be saved for occasional treats. Remember to praise your child when they've tried something new, to show your encouragement.
You can find lots of ideas for healthy lunches at Change4Life.