The first term back at school has arrived and with it, packed lunchboxes. But if there’s one thing that I think we can all agree on, it’s that we all want our kids to eat healthily.
The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) have shared with us a few of their top tips for ensuring that your child is getting the nutrients they need in their lunchbox to take on the day.
1. Start with starch
Load up on those starchy foods as a base. Wholegrain rice, wholemeal bread, brown pasta and skin-on potatoes are rich in fibre and release energy slowly throughout the afternoon. “Many children are getting well below the recommended intake of fibre,” says BNF, “which is important not only for digestive health, but for helping to keep them healthy in later life.”
2. Five fruit ‘n’ veg
It’s usually recommended to eat five pieces of fruit and veg in a day, but this isn’t all your child needs.
Kids who are growing need all the help they can get from our plant-based friends. Our bodies need essential vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin C and potassium, for healthy development.
Try and squeeze some mushrooms, peas or sweetcorn in a pasta dish, and no sandwich should be salad-free. If your little squirt can’t stand munching leaves, hide some tomatoes or grated carrot between the bread!
3. Pack in plenty of protein
It’s easy to fill a lunchbox with carbs in all shapes and sizes, and starchy foods are an integral part of the midday meal.
However, forgetting to include protein-rich foods on a regular basis can damage prospects of growth, maintenance and repair of your little one’s body.
It can often take a little more time to work out whether to source some protein from, especially whilst meal prepping at 7pm on a Sunday night, but trust us, it’s worth the extra thought! Some of our favourite protein-packed picks are beans, lentils, pulses, fish, eggs and meat.
The BNF suggests that these foods can either be used as sandwich fillings, such as a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich, or throw them into some couscous or wholegrain rice dishes, such as mild vegetable and lentil curries. The best part? They can be made in less than 15 minutes! Our top tip is to try and add in tuna or salmon at least twice a week for a brilliant omega 3 boost.
4. Get hydration happy
On top of creating a colourful and diverse spread to whip out in the school canteen, you need to provide your child with lots of water.
Try to avoid sugary drinks such as milkshakes or fizzy pop too often. Not only are they bad for your child, but the added energy also may not be conducive to concentration levels during lessons!
The BNF wants to stress the importance of packing a drink for your little one, as younger children are more likely to get dehydrated than adults.
This is due to the fact they have a higher proportion of body water and are also less heat tolerant.
5. Find that good fat
Whilst we realise the importance of treating your children, filling a lunchbox with Wagon Wheels and Cheestrings is only damaging their health in the long-run.
Try mixing it up a bit by giving them some carrot sticks with a mini pot of hummous or guacemole.
It’ll encourage them to eat more veg and they’ll be getting those good fats in alongside it. A Dairylea Cheese Triangle every so often is fine, but try and limit these kinds of saturated fat-filled foods.
Need some ideas? Click here.