Nutritious snacks and lunches are essential for children. Thus, it’s imperative to provide them with healthy, diverse lunch box options. These choices include a combination of dairy, protein, carbohydrate foods, crunchy vegetables, and fresh fruit.
Eating nutritious food can help children learn and concentrate. However, packing a healthy lunch box may need more preparation than you think. Your child’s lunch box should be well-balanced and must contain the food you want them to eat and not what they want. Try to list the food you want to include and encourage your children to help choose and prepare their lunch.
Foods to Include in Your Child’s Lunch
There are plenty of food options to add to your child’s lunch boxes. However, it can become troublesome to decide which foods to include. To make choosing easier, here are some suggestions:
The best fruits you can include are fresh or tinned fruits. Also, dried fruit is sticky and has high sugar levels, so only include it occasionally. The fruits you should leave out of the lunch boxes are dried fruit bars since they are low in fiber, high in sugar, and cause tooth decay.
Consider including vegetable sticks with a dip or a small container of mixed vegetables such as cucumber, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, and capsicum. The vegetables you should only leave out for parties or special occasions are chips and packets of crisps.
Cakes and Muffins
You can include homemade cakes and muffins incorporated with fruits and vegetables such as carrots, bananas, sultana, pumpkin, or zucchini. However, avoid including creamy cakes, donuts, and chocolate and breakfast bars with high sugar levels.
Biscuits, Cheese, and Dips
You can include your homemade version or pre-packaged cheese and crackers in your child’s lunch box since they tend to enjoy mini cheese packages. Also, avoid adding sweet dips like chocolate spreads. Lastly, it’s best not to include oven-baked savory biscuits with similar high salt and fat levels as chips.
A well-balanced lunch box meal also includes different bread varieties since children might lose enthusiasm in eating just sandwiches. Try adding muffins, bagels, bread rolls, focaccias, corn thins, flatbread, rice cakes, pita bread, fruit loaf or buns, or crispbreads.
You can try adding various fillings, including peanut butter, tuna, avocado, different types of cheese, egg, baked beans, chopped roast meat with chutney or pickles, vegemite, and sliced cold meats. Dips such as chickpea (hummus), caviar (taramosalata), spinach, eggplant, yogurt, or cucumber also make great spreads. Avoid adding fatty meats like Strasbourg and salami, jams and honey, and chocolate spreads.
Dairy (includes Milk, Custard, and Yogurt)
Take a small milk drink that’s frozen overnight, wrapped in a cloth, and include it in the lunch box. Additionally, fruit yogurts must be kept cool inside an insulated lunch box. Finally, it’s best to leave out flavored milk and dairy desserts that are high in sugar.
For Busy Households
If you don’t enough time to prepare your child’s lunch box during the mornings and only have enough time to do it at night, you can try making simple and easy to make, ready-to-eat meals that can last for several hours in the lunch box. Foods like sandwiches the are preparable the night before are the ideal meals suitable for this situation. Lunch box foods that you can freeze include:
- Peanut butter
- Cooked meat
- Mashed eggs
- Baked beans
- Yeast or vegetable spreads
The best drinks to give to children are water and milk. You can even freeze them to help in keeping the food inside the lunch box cool. High sugar drinks such as soft drinks, fruit juices, fizzy drinks, cordials, flavored mineral waters, sports drinks, and juice drinks aren’t necessary since they can increase tooth decay risks.
For most cases, lunch box foods are stored for several hours, meaning the lunch box has to stay cool. Here are the following food safety suggestions:
Use an insulated lunch box or one that has a freezer pack. Another option would be to put a wrapped frozen water bottle inside the lunch box to keep it cool.
Follow proper hygiene in preparing the food. Keeping good hygiene is especially crucial when the food is stored in the lunch box for hours before consuming.
Prepare the lunch box meals the night before and store them inside the fridge or the freezer.
Keep perishable foods such as sliced meats, dairy products, and eggs cool and eaten within four hours of preparation. Don’t include these if they’re just cooked. Instead, you have to cool them first in the fridge overnight.
It’s essential to continue offering your children a variety of healthy lunch box options. Encourage your child to eat before playing, or talk to the school about ensuring your child eats first before heading out and play. Also, always include fruits and vegetables when preparing your child’s meal.