A healthy school lunch gives children energy to learn and play. Packing a nutritious lunch helps your child to eat well and influences their future eating habits. Involving your child in planning, shopping for and preparing their lunchbox develops their ability to make healthy choices and enjoy good food.
A healthy lunchbox
The food eaten at school should be about a third of the food consumed over the course of a day. Typically this would consist of lunch and a snack. Ideally this would include:
- A lean protein food such as: tuna or salmon (canned in spring water or oils such as canola, olive or sunflower), boiled eggs or lean meats such as chicken or beef. Vegetable protein sources can include tofu, nuts (where school nuts and anaphylaxis policies allow) and legumes/beans.
- A starch food such as: bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. There is a variety to choose from such as wholegrain, wholemeal or high fibre breads such as seeded rolls, Lebanese bread, pita, lavash, bagels, plain popcorn, a wholemeal low sugar muffin, brown and white rice or pasta.
- Fruit and/or vegetable such as: whole or chopped fruit, raw vegies such as carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber or capsicum strips, canned fruit in natural juice or a small salad.
- A reduced fat dairy food such as: reduced fat yoghurt, reduced fat cheese, or reduced fat milk or their alternatives (remember to pack in an insulated container with an ice pack or frozen bottle of water).
- Bottle of tap water frozen on hot days to keep the lunchbox and your child cool. Sweetened drinks such as juice, cordial or soft drink are not recommended as these contain too much sugar, which is not good for dental teeth and contains no nutritional value
What to do when it’s not working
The healthy packed school lunch is just a waste if it isn’t eaten. All our efforts go to waste if our kids sit down at the table in the school lunch room and don’t eat their lunch. It takes compromise with our kids (to give them foods that are healthy foods they like), efforts on our part and theirs, time to make these lunches, and creativity.
- Involve your children in planning the lunch menu for the week and shopping to choose the fruit and vegetables for their lunchbox. Buying all the necessary fresh fruit and vegetables, meats, milk and yoghurt, bread and crackers in advance will also allow you to shop wisely for good quality and better value for money.
- Consider another type of lunchbox.
- Is it too much? If so, offer smaller servings. Half a sandwich might be more appropriate than a whole one.
- Is it too boring? Try to vary the lunches daily. Young children may appreciate it if sandwiches are cut different ways.