It’s almost that time again…school holidays are nearly over which means time to start preparing for the new school year! Getting things like books, stationery and uniforms is made easier with lists provided by your child’s school. We don’t tend to get that kind of information for something else your child needs for school every day: a healthy lunch! So we thought we would help you out with some tips on packing nutritious lunches.
Enjoying a healthy diet enhances a child’s learning by helping them to maintain concentration, listen better, behave and play well with others at school. Variety is the key to your child getting the most diverse range of nutrients for growth, development and general health. That is why we recommend that all 5 food groups are represented in your child’s lunch box. The Healthy Eating Advisory Service have put together a great list of foods (see link) from each food group which can be included in a lunch box along with serving suggestions and tips for safe food storage during warmer months.
Below is an outline of the information provided by the Healthy Eating Advisory Service. Be sure to take a look at the list for more details and yummy lunch ideas!
Fruit can include whole fresh fruit such as apples and bananas, mixed fruit such as fruit salad, dried fruit or tinned fruit in juice.
Vegetables can be included in their fresh form (such as vegetable sticks or cherry tomatoes), as a salad (e.g. coleslaw) or cooked (e.g. roasted vegetables and vegetable muffins).
Dairy/Alternatives can include milk drinks, yogurts, cheeses and dips.
Meat/Alternatives can be served as a filling in a sandwich or wrap, tins of fish, frittatas and other savoury baked items.
Grains and Cereals can include the basic sandwich or wrap but can also include pasta, rice, crackers, cereal snacks and many more.
It is also recommended to have a water bottle which can be refilled throughout the day and even frozen overnight to help keep the lunch box contents cool on warmer days.
Planning ahead is always useful when it comes to preparing lunches. We recommend that you try to keep your pantry or fridge stocked with basic everyday lunch foods such as fruit, vegetables, milk/yogurt, breads and crackers so that lunches can be prepared without too much thought. To prevent last minute scrambling to put together a healthy lunch, it may also be helpful to get into a habit of setting aside a few minutes every morning or evening for packing lunch.
If you are keen to keep a handle on your budget, or if your child’s school has a ‘Nude Food Policy’, it helps to choose fruit and vegetables which are in season, buying in bulk and having dedicated reusable containers for portioning out snacks.
Finally, if your child tends to bring a lot of food home uneaten, it may help to involve them in choosing their own lunch (out of a healthy range you are willing to offer), and also involve your child in the preparation of the ‘healthier’ foods.
For further tips and information on this topic, the following websites may be helpful:
Healthy Eating Advisory Service – Healthy Lunchboxes: https://heas.health.vic.gov.au/schools/healthy-lunchboxes
Nutrition Australia – What’s for lunch?: https://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/whats-lunch
Nutrition Australia – Packing a school lunchbox: https://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/packing-school-lunchbox