The 2019 school year has just begun and your child needs a lunchbox filled with food that will nourish and sustain them for the almost-seven hours that they are in school, every single day of the year. Nutritionist Julie Landon shares her top tips for lunchboxes with us.
Children and teens need food that will fuel them with energy and nutrients to learn, play sport and have fun with their friends. They should avoid food that will hype them up briefly, only to ‘crash and burn’ 20 minutes later. They need food that they like, is easy to eat, and has minimal impact on the environment.
As a nutritionist, I recommend EVERY lunchbox should contain:
1-2 servings (depending upon how much they have at other times of the day). Easy to add whole or chopped up into smaller pieces. Provides essential nutrients like Vitamin C and bioflavonoids (necessary for boosting immune function), carbohydrates (providing energy), and fibre (essential for maintaining good gut health).
Maybe tricky, I know, but vegetables provide nutrients to help our bodies concentrate, grow and develop and boost our immune systems. Aim to include a range of colours—I like to think of a rainbow across the week as the different colours provide different nutrients.
Think chicken, cheese, seeds, meatballs, fish, eggs and yoghurt—but limit or avoid processed meats with lots of additives. Protein assists in growth and development but also helps your child feel fuller for longer periods of time.
4. Healthy fats
Healthy fats assist with your child’s brain development, hormone development, skin health and nutrient absorption. Choose avocado, olive oil, fish and seeds and reduce or avoid processed/packaged foods made from trans fats.
What about grains?
You might be wondering why I haven’t included grains in my essentials list. Whole grains provide a range of vitamins and minerals and provide energy through carbohydrates; however, I find many of us tend to include a grain without really thinking about it. I suggest you only include whole grains and mix it up to include brown rice, pasta, whole grain or spelt bread and muffins.
What should we avoid in lunchboxes?
I also suggest considering and minimising products that are:
- High in sugar – be especially careful with flavoured yoghurts/milks/custards, muesli bars and juice, as well as cakes, lollies and soft drinks
- High in trans fats/vegetable oils – especially biscuits, chips, pies, many packaged items
- Contain additives and preservatives – the chemicals added to our foods may impact behaviour, concentration and skin conditions, and affect health later on in life. As a general rule, if the ingredient list is longer than five items or contains words or numbers you don’t recognise, choose something different.
Filling your child’s lunchbox with real foods and not highly processed, packaged foods marketed as the ‘perfect lunchbox foods’, may seem daunting and time-consuming but as a busy working mum, I assure you that it can be done. If you’re stuck for ideas on how to put this into action, or need further support and guidance to optimise your family’s health, then please contact me. I run small group workshops and provide individual nutrition consultations in Cordeaux Heights and Unanderra.