As a Mum of four, I understand how difficult it is trying to get your kids to eat more healthily. This is especially true if the taste-buds have already adapted a liking to sweet and more processed junk foods. A lot of schools have now adopted a strict no processed junk food policy in lunch boxes but getting kids to eat a balanced lunch can be tricky. So, I have come up with some hints and tips on what foods should be in a lunch box and how you can get your kids to eat them.
Starchy Foods – Carbohydrates
Kids are usually bursting with energy and their bodies require carbohydrates which is the body preferred source of fuel. I would advise giving kids a carbohydrate that is also rich in fibre. Bread is a lunch box staple, so opt for a high quality wholegrain bread that is high in fibre or alternatively try them with something different like a pitta or wrap. Preparing some wholegrain pasta and brown rice in advance and mixing in some ham, chicken or tuna could also work.
Getting protein into children’s diet is essential for growth. Including some meat like chicken, ham, turkey, or tuna. Alternatively, some mixed beans or cheese are also sources of protein. Make sure there is an adequate portion of protein in the lunch box as this also ensures that kids don’t crave high sugar foods, as protein has a high satiety level which makes them feel fuller for longer.
Fruit & Veg
It’s of utmost importance that as parents we always think of the vitamins and minerals that our kids should be getting from foods. Vitamin C is top of the list and other vitamins and minerals which will stave off colds, flus and other infections that can proliferate around the classroom. Baby tomatoes, cucumber and carrot sticks with a pot of hummus for dipping. I find cutting up the fruit in advance makes it more likely that they will eat it, for instance peeling the mandarins and cutting up the apples. Little Tupperware snack boxes of grapes are also handy for break times.
Most adults think that milk is essential for children calcium needs, however there are other ways to get in calcium into a child’s diet. Yogurt is a great lunchbox option however make sure you are not buying high sugar yogurts and opt for natural or Greek with fresh fruit mixed throughout. Cheese is also high in calcium and green veg like broccoli and watercress and spinach. I recommend in winter months putting homemade soup in a flask and sneaking in as much high calcium veg as possible.
Remember that occasional sweet treats are part of a balanced diet. As long as the majority of calories your child is taking in is from nutrient dense foods then a little something every so often is a normal part of everyday life. Try making healthy treats at home with your kids as involving them in the preparation can really create a greater understanding of food and health eating. There is also a greater chance of them eating if they are involved in the preparation.