Monday, August 16, 2010

How to pack a healthy kids lunch box

Packing a school lunch can be trying for many parents,here are some great tips on lunches that balance taste, nutrition and plenty of variety.

Preparing the school lunch box is like walking a tightrope. Balancing the nutritional needs of growing children while offering foods they will actually eat can be challenging for even the most organized parents. With a third of a child's total food intake for the day being consumed at school, it is important that the bulk of food included in your child's lunch box provides much needed nutrients, vitamins and minerals for energy and growth.

Wholegrains for energy
The first thing that needs to be considered when packing a lunch is a good source of carbohydrate for energy. For most children, this will be a sandwich but may also be a wrap made from flatbread such as Lavash or Lebanese bread, or from cracker biscuits or rice and corn cakes. It is known that wholegrain varieties of breads and cereals are digested more slowly than more
processed white varieties and are likely to keep children fuller for longer, so choose wholegrains wherever possible.

Protein and vegitables
Aim for your child's sandwich to contain a good source of lean protein such as 97 per cent fat-free turkey, chicken or ham, tinned tuna or salmon or low-fat cheese. The protein portion will keep your child full, help to maintain concentration levels through the afternoon lessons and help
prevent the four o'clock rush to the fridge when they get home. Also try to add some sort of salad to the sandwich. Salad and vegetables add fibre and bulk, which also helps to keep him or her full. Some options that will not make sandwiches too soggy include lettuce, grated carrot, celery and cucumber circles.

Fruit for fibre
Always add one piece of fresh or dried fruit to your child's lunch box. Children will eat fruit if they are hungry and there are no other more appealing "junk type" options available. Different fruit options include small tins of fruit in natural juice, small plastic containers of grapes or strawberries, pieces of banana or oranges and other citrus fruits.

Water to drink
Water should be the drink of choice. Fruit juices,, flavoured waters and full strength soft drinks are very high in sugar and should not be consumed on a daily basis. Freeze water bottles the night before for hot days.

Small snack
Failing to include a snack in your child's lunch box runs the risk of them swapping their fruit for more appealing packaged options. A more realistic approach is to include one, small nutritious snack. Unfortunately, it does seem that many parents are over filling their children's lunch boxes with snack food. A Victorian survey of more than 3000 children found on average children were given three serves of snack or "junk foods" each day for their lunch box, which is far too many. Aim for one small (~20g or <400kJ snack food) in your child's lunch box each day.Other nutritious snack choices include reduced-fat flavored milk, yogurt,crackers,biscuit, cakes and low-fat cookies.

How to choose snack bars
There are hundreds to pick from but how do you know that the snack bar that your child professes to love is a healthy option? While less processed snack foods such as fruit and yogurt are better options, sometimes busy parents do need to rely on snack bars to fill lunch boxes. Small sized bars that are lower in calories and processed carbohydrates, Varieties that are also based on whole grains or contain some dietary fiber,are also reasonably good choices.