What kids eat over the course of the day has the potential to set them up with good energy levels, good concentration and a good mood, if done right.
I am pretty conscientious when it comes to healthy lunches. I aim to include minimally processed whole foods and homemade snacks most days. The closer it is to nature the better. I also prefer to use all organic produce where possible (thus reducing the pesticide load and impact of added hormones on growing bodies). Add to this a drink bottle filled with plain water and we are setting our children up with healthy food habits and a healthy future.
My able assistant here is the lunchbox itself, which serves as my guide. I use those lunch boxes that have 4 neat little compartments, 2 of which can conveniently hold sealed containers. Not only do they provide the perfect tool for wrapper free lunches (look for BPA free and check they are made from recyclable plastic – my kids seem to go through a few each year) but more importantly they are the perfect tool to create a balanced lunch. These 4 compartments are my best friend in the don’t-have-time-for-too-much-thinking morning rush, and can be yours too.
The perfect school lunch in 4 compartments
1. Main course
2. Fruit and vegetables
3. Something savoury
4. A healthy sweet treat
Making sure kids get a balance of healthy fats and protein alongside energy-giving, wholegrain carbohydrates will help to keep blood sugar levels stable, ensuring good concentration and mood. It is important to keep changing it up too. Adding variety from one day to the next ensures the necessary balance of nutrients over the course of a week. This also helps our children develop their palate. I have never prepared separate meals for my children and whilst they have their favourites, they are enthusiastic about new foods and dishes.
The main course should provide a combination of lean protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. These carbohydrates should take the form of vegetables and minimally refined whole grains.. Good fats to include are avocado, nuts and seed butters or a drizzle of olive oil. Some proteins that are lunchbox friendly include legumes (whole or as the base for a spread), organic meats, eggs and dairy.
- Sandwich/ wraps – (sourdough, stoneground, organic breads for sandwiches or flat breads/ nori sheets for wraps) with eg. fetta and avocado/ tahini and miso
- Leftovers that work really well include nasi goreng, stir fry, quinoa based salads, vegetarian curry with grain, pasta-style salads
- Homemade pastry triangles
- Nori rolls/ sushi
- Frittata muffins
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of the diet as they provide a wide range of nutrients as well fibre to help the digestive system function properly. Try to serve a rainbow of colours and as much variety as possible over the week.
- cherry tomatoes
- carrot / cucumber / celery sticks/ snow peas/ etc.
- fresh fruit: berries / cherries/ pear / apple / stone fruit pieces
This includes either a savoury snack or a protein (depending on how much protein is already included in the main course)
- boiled egg
- cubes of marinated tofu
- edamame (young soy beans)
- cubes of cheese/ dip with rice biscuits or vegie sticks
- small container of chick peas
- homemade popcorn
- rice cakes with protein based spread: nut butters, miso paste, hummus
A healthy sweet treat
- fresh dates
- date and coconut rolls
- homemade bliss balls
- homemade muffins / biscuits (sugar content reduced by 1/2)
- dried fruit
- pureed fruit with yogurt
- oven roasted pear sprinkled with cinnamon
It doesn’t take much effort to create healthy school lunches. The key is being organised with a stocked fridge and pantry at the start of the week and then it is just a matter of mixing and matching to create nutritional balance.