HOW TO MAKE THE BEST SCHOOL LUNCHES
School’s back! If you are stressing out about what to put in your kid’s lunch box, today’s article on school lunches will make this task less daunting. The internet is full of wonderful hacks, recipe ideas and tips for making school lunches.
We thought we’ll try a different approach and focus solely on healthy school lunches. After all, the best school lunches are the healthy ones! Let’s make 2021, ‘The Year for Healthy School Lunches’.
1. Why a balanced diet is important for school
Eating a balanced diet is important for school. Regular nutritious food is important for a child’s physical, mental, and educational development. A good diet gives them energy and helps them to focus, concentrate and learn. Here are some good reasons to make 2021 the Year for Healthy School Lunches:
- Boost overall health.
- Promotes wellbeing.
- Improves focus, concentration, memory, school behaviour and school achievement.
- Prevents childhood obesity, tooth decay and other illnesses associated with poor diet
2. What to put in the school lunch box
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, a good and balanced school lunch must comprise of the six food groups.
- Fresh fruits.
- Fresh crunchy vegetables and legumes.
- Daily – milk, cheese, yoghurt, or dairy alternatives.
- Grains or cereals.
- Water – the best water is plain.
Pick and mix from these six food groups for the healthiest school lunches. Try to include as many of the six groups as possible each day. Find creative ways to incorporate foods into their lunches. For example, if your child hates eating vegetables raw, you can add vegetables into a frittata, a pie, a mini quiche, a muffin or in a serving of fried noodles or pasta.
3. What not to put in school lunches
It’s tempting to take short cuts and buy pre-packed snacks for the school lunch. While it’s perfectly acceptable to include one or two treats once in a while, stay away from the temptation of making unhealthy snacks the main feature of your kid’s school lunch.
We’ve compiled a list of 6 unacceptable items that should not be in a school lunch box:
- Sweet drinks such as fruit juices, cocktails, soft drinks, energy drinks or flavoured waters (including flavoured mineral waters and teas). Artificially sweetened drinks fall into this category. They may not have extra calories, but they promote a sweet taste bud which can lead to cravings for other unhealthy options.
- Dried fruit and fruit bars. They are low in fibre and high in sugar.
- ‘Dairy desserts’ like chocolate bars and muesli bars. They are high in fat and sugar.
- Chocolate spreads, jams, and honey in sandwiches.
- Fatty, processed meats like salami.
- Crisps or oven-baked savoury biscuits. Crisps may sound healthy, but they are full of salt and high in fat.
4. How to get your child to eat his or her lunch box
It’s true – we eat with our eyes. If you make your kid’s school lunch box visually appealing, you are more likely to get them to sample the food you’ve packed. The lunch box does not have to be ‘Instagrammable’ but it must be balanced with plenty of colours.
If your child likes the predictable, it is okay to repeat foods that they like so long as you balanced it with good proteins, fats, and slow-release carbs. If your child likes trying new things than changing what you put in their lunch boxes can encourage them to eat what’s inside.
A good way to get your child to eat his or her lunch box is to enlist their help in packing it. For example, give them a choice between a tuna sandwich and a ham and tomato sandwich. Let them choose the fruit of the day. Your child is more likely to eat his or her lunch if they have a say in what you put inside it. At the same time, you are teaching them a valuable life lesson on the importance of eating a healthy and balanced diet.
5. Plan school lunches ahead of time
Planning makes school lunch less of a chore. Collate your recipes a week ahead so you have plenty of time to pre-cook foods or stock your pantry.
Leftovers are cheap, easy, and best of all you can give them a makeover and turn your leftovers into a delicious healthy school lunch for the kids.
If you are worried about unrefrigerated cooked meat, put the lunch in an insulated bag, freeze the sandwich overnight or pack a frozen drink bottle or freezer brick next to the food.
Packing the school lunches the night before will give you more time in the morning to focus on other important tasks like waking the kids, getting them ready for school and giving them a proper breakfast.
6. Healthy school lunches tips and recipe ideas
Looking for some great school lunch recipe ideas? Here are some wonderful resources we found online:
Healthy Lunchbox Week
Nutrition Australia’s Healthy Lunchbox Week helps parents prepare healthy lunches for their kids. The Lunchbox Week starts on Week 1 and has an entire year of healthy and creative snacks you can whip up at home for the kids’ school lunches. The site is full of recipe ideas, videos, and food safety tips.
Better Health Channel
Looking for a menu planner for healthy school lunches? The Better Health Channel’s Menu Planner is a great way to help you get started if you are new to healthy school lunches. Apart from recipes, the site also has helpful advice for parents on food refusal, peer pressure during lunchtime, easy snack ideas, and food safety.
Healthy Kids Association
Healthy Kids is a not-for-profit organisation focusing on children’s health and nutrition. If you are looking for easy-to-follow recipe ideas for your school lunch, their HKA Kitchen is a good place to start.
The Cancer Society has an interactive lunchbox builder you can try out to find the most creative combinations of healthy and delicious snacks for your child’s school lunch. The site also offers tips on packing the lunch box, recipes and nutrition and health advice.
The Queensland Government has a fun and interactive website to help you build healthy lunchboxes.
Download their ebook recipes on https://www.healthier.qld.gov.au/healthy-families/eating-and-drinking-well/healthy-lunchboxes-made-easy/
We hope our article has inspired you to start preparing healthier lunches for your child. At Top Kidz we love hearing from our readers so if you have some wonderful tips on school lunches, time-saving hacks, or a secret recipe, do share with us!