Content written by: The Organic Butler
Driving to school, juggling after-school activities and making sure the children do their homework are not the only parenting hurdles of school aged kids. One of the most overwhelming yet important aspects of this developmental stage is making sure your kids have access to nutritious, healthy foods that promote steady energy levels and great school performance.
Is it ok to rely on the ever-tempting school food mecca, the tuckshop? In general, the answer is no. Firstly, despite the recent changes which promote healthier options availability at tuckshops, those are still not strictly reinforced. Another thing is that spending money at the tuckshop every day adds up quickly. Even if prices for individual items seem relatively small, nothing beats home-packed lunches from the economical perspective.
And last but certainly not least, products sold at tuckshops that qualify as healthy are not necessarily certified organic, which is a major disadvantage. Providing organic foods for your children is one of the best parental choices you can possibly make for the little ones. One of the most prominent reasons for that are lower concentrations of harmful pesticides and chemicals in organic produce compared to conventional counterparts. Of course, it’s practically impossible to limit all of your children’s exposures to these nasty substances, but why not reduce it where you can? It’s not all about what’s not in the organic foods though – these products are also much higher in essential vitamins and minerals that are especially important for healthy growth and development.
So there you have it – your best bet is to pack your kids’ lunchboxes with a selection of tasty nutritious organic foods. Today, we’d like to share a trick or two to help you construct a perfect lunchbox!
- Food safety first! Make sure there is always a room for an ice pole to keep the fresh foods chilled. This not only improves taste, but also helps preserve nutrients and limits bacterial growth.
- Encourage children’s participation when packing lunches for them. Have fun picking snacks together, make some muesli bars and healthy slices and pack everything together. Kids learn by example, and by getting them involved, you’re helping them build a healthy foundation for their dietary habits, which is truly priceless.
- This goes without saying that limiting pre-packaged foods and snacks to an absolute minimum is the best way to build the healthiest lunchbox possible. If you do choose to include pre-packaged foods, make sure they mostly contain natural certified organic ingredients.
- Make lunches interesting and entertaining by providing a wide selection of options and adding some fun (think including colourful foods such as fruit and veggies, or cutting sandwiches and slices in cute shapes). Using fun accessories is also a great idea – here is some inspiration!
- Always pack a bottle of water to help your little ones stay hydrated during a long school day! We suggest water for a reason – this should be the first beverage choice at all times. An occasional juice or soft drinks are fine, but those are full of sugar and may contribute to excessive energy intake if consumed too frequently. If your children really dislike plain water, try infusing it with lemon, berries or mint – instant flavour and no harm!
Seasonal, organic fruit and vegetables should be included in your child’s lunchbox every day. Fresh produce is the best option; however, canned varieties with no added sugar or chemicals may also be good alternatives. Encourage your child to consume a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables by providing a colourful selection every day accompanied by healthy dips, such as organic hummus or peanut butter.
Here are a few helpful tips to incorporate fruit and vegetables into school lunches:
- Cut fruit and veggies into finger foods, such as sticks or small slices. Less mess, more joy!
- Frozen fruit kebabs make a great morning snack, and are also a fun ice cream alternative.
- Pack zip bags full of various fruit and veggie combinations.
- If your child is not big on vegetables, try “sneaking” them into veggie-rich snacks such as falafels, bubble and squeak or baked veggie patties.
Protein for healthy growth
Make sure to pack healthy protein rich foods every day – it can be lean meat or poultry, eggs, legumes, fish or tofu. Even if your school doesn’t have an explicit “no nuts” policy, it’s a good idea to avoid packing high allergy risk foods such as peanuts to avoid unfortunate accidents. Your little ones can always munch on those at home!
Healthy grains for energy
Including a variety of healthy grains is important to provide children with enough energy to get through the day! It’s not all about the sandwiches though, and there are more things to try to keep it interesting. Some ideas include:
- Wholegrain wraps and lavash breads
- Lebanese and Turkish breads
- Fruit loaf
- Salads made with brown rice or pasta
- Rice paper rolls
Dairy and alternatives
Including organic dairy and/or alternatives is a great way to boost healthy growth and development. Alternatives such as organic soy, rice or almond milk (preferably unsweetened and fortified) are great for children with allergies and other special dietary considerations.
If your little one doesn’t enjoy drinking milk, other lunchbox-friendly dairy products and alternatives include cheese slices and sticks, natural yoghurt tubs and grilled tofu.
As you can see, ensuring your children are eating healthy, nutritious foods at school is not as daunting as it may seem!
Choose fresh, organic produce, limit the use of pre-packaged foods, include options from all core food groups every day and get your kids involved – and you will soon find this healthy eating routine incredibly rewarding and satisfying.
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