Beyond the vegemite sandwich: 5 tips for a supercharged lunchbox
“Packing lunchboxes is my favourite time of the day!” – said no parent ever.
I totally understand, packing lunchboxes is a total pain, but the good news is that it’s just as easy to pack a supercharged, healthy lunchbox, as it is to pack a nasty one that’s going to set your child up for yawning or distracted behaviour all afternoon.
The most common item in a lunchbox is, hands-down, a sandwich. It’s great that you’re making a home-made lunch for your child, but we can do ever better!! Sandwiches can be lacking in key nutrients and be carb heavy.
Here are my 5 tips for packing a supercharged lunchbox.
- Always include 2 serves of vegetables in your lunch box. Most children have a ‘crunch and sip’ break or similar at school, so it might make it easier for the veggies to be in a small container on their own, rather than bento box style.Mix it up between raw veggies, fermented veggies and cooked veggies.Think of a rainbow when you pack a lunch box. Different colours in foods represents different phytochemicals (vitamins and mineral). By eating all the colours you make sure you are getting a range of vitamins and minerals.Your child needs 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit every day.If they don’t pack some vegetables in their lunch box, that leaves a lot of vegetables to eat at dinner time!
Vegetables also provide a good dose of fibre, to keep your child regular. Whole foods such as vegetables are broken down much later on in the gut, which means they feed the good bacteria. This benefits immunity, concentration and behaviour!
Experiment with my fermented carrot recipe for a probiotic boost. The fermented carrots put beneficial bacteria straight into the gut. They also keep for a few months in the fridge, so are convenient to grab in the morning. Your child might screw their face up a bit at first, but the will end up loving them, you just need to be consistent. A child might have to try a food 13 times before they like it.
The cooked and cooled potatoes in my Spanish tortilla and the sweet potato chips contain large amounts of resistant starch. This acts like fibre, and is so keeps those good bacterial alive!! Don’t buy the sweet potato chips in the freezer in the supermarket. They contain lots of extra ingredients, and poor quality oils.
Always include at least 1 serve of fresh fruit in the lunch box.
Dried fruit is very high in sugar, and also really sticky. This is a double whammy for dental health, as it will stick to your child’s teeth and stay there until they brush their teeth at night.
Don’t be fooled by the roll up style of ‘fruit snacks’ or other lollies masquerading as fruit.
If it can sit in a cupboard for months on end, don’t put it in your lunch box.
If your child doesn’t love fruit, just substitute with vegetables instead. They are just as high in vitamins, minerals and fibre and lower in sugar.
The easiest option is just putting in an apple, banana or mandarin. If these tend to go to school, and come home again, you may need to think more creatively. My fruit kebabs are always a winner. Just remember to cut the sharp ends off the skewers!
Poached pears feel a bit more like dessert, and are a yummy winter treat.
A lot of parents like to put a baked treat in their child’s lunch box, to let their child know they have been thinking of them.
Stay away from snacks that are marketed as kids lunch box treats.
These are really high in sugar. They will make your child’s blood sugar spike (think hyper kids running around the class room) and crash (think child falling asleep in the afternoon lessons). They also contain artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, many of which have been linked to hyperactivity.
Instead, take this as a great opportunity to supercharge the lunch box, and get some extra goodness into your child.
Instead of using white flour, use ground up sunflower seeds, or a vegetable (pumpkin or sweet potato) as a base. Seeds contain large amounts of essential fatty acids, so important for brain health and healthy skin. Try one of these supercharged healthy treats: Banana bread, Chocolate Zucchini Muffins or Veggies Muffins.
Protein and fat are necessary to keep your child full and able to focus at school. They help your child’s blood sugar to stay more stable.
This means they won’t be so ravenous after school!
Include a high quality protein source every day. I like to make a lot of meatballs and keep them in the freezer, then just take a couple out in the morning. Try my chicken and leek meatballs or veal and celery meatballs. They will be defrosted by lunch time. The wonderful thing about meatballs is that you can easily sneak some veggies into them.
Other options for when you are rushed for time is a high quality organic, preservative free sausage. You could also opt for a boiled egg, or some vegetarian options such as falafel. Other options are popping some dinner left overs in the box – some left over roast meat or baked salmon.
Less healthy options are processed hams and chickens. These contain harmful chemicals such as nitrites and are directly related to developing colon cancer.
Your child should take a large water bottle to school every day, and it should be finished before they get home. Choose a re-useable stainless steel water bottle.
Using stainless steel will reduce your child’s exposure to chemicals such as endocrine disrupting chemicals and phthalates (Eczema blog). I often hear parents saying they make sure their children drink a large glass of water with a meal, however this is actually not the best way to do it. By drinking with a meal, you actually dilute the digestive juices required to break down the food.
Water should be drank between meals, not with meals.
Follow these 5 lunch box rules every day, and do some prep work at the weekend, and hopefully packing a lunch box with become easier!