We would all like to think that our children have a perfect diet – eating lots of fruit, loving vegetables and avoiding junk food at all costs, but in real life there are few kids who wouldn’t throw away an apple for a treat any day of the week.
And this is as true for lunchboxes as any other meal. Getting kids to eat a balanced lunch can be tricky so we’ve come up with some hints and tips on what foods should be in a lunch box and how you can get kids to eat them
SCHOOL LUNCHBOXES – WHAT DO KIDS NEED?
Starchy Foods:These foods give kids energy for the school day and if you go for the wholegrains, they are also a great source of fibre. Bread is a lunchbox staple and you can try wholegrain bread, wholegrain pita or wraps. You can also try pasta or rice salads and. If you’re organised, a potato cake can work really well.
Protein: Protein is essential for growth. Protein foods are meat (beef, lamb, pork), chicken or turkey, fish, cheese and beans. Try ham or chicken in sandwiches; tuna and mayo; fingers of cheese or beans such as kidney beans in a pasta salad.
Fruit and vegetables: These give us the all-important vitamin C as well as fibre. Add some lettuce, tomatoes or cucumber to sandwiches, add carrot or celery sticks to the lunchbox or pop in an easy-to-peel mandarin orange. Try a kiwi cut in half to eat with a teaspoon, a small bunch of grapes or a soft fruit like peach or plum for older children.
Calcium: Children need lots of calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt are all rich in calcium. Try cheese in a sandwich (remember this also counts as a protein food), add a yogurt or give them a small carton of milk to drink. Cheese triangles and cheese strings are also rich in calcium and great for lunchboxes. If your child likes fish, tinned sardines are actually very rich in calcium. Try sardines in tomato sauce with some lettuce on wholegrain bread.
Drink: Water and milk are the best drinks for kids. Low sugar squashes that are well diluted can be used occasionally. Unsweetened fruit juice can be useful but it has a lot of acid which can be bad for teeth so it is best taken with meals, not by itself. Fizzy drinks have a lot of sugar and acid and are best kept as a special treat, not for lunchboxes.
Treats: Most children and adults enjoy something sweet at the end of a meal but many parents are concerned about giving their children treat foods. Although there is no problem giving children a treat now and again, it is probably best not to get them into the habit of always having something sweet at the end of every meal. Many children enjoy a yoghurt and this can make a nutritious treat in a lunchbox. Fruit can also be used as a ‘dessert’, especially if your child is used to having a fruit as a dessert at home. Small tubs of custard or rice pudding make a great treat and are rich in calcium but can be high in sugar. Children can also be fascinated by exotic fruits – mangoes, paw paws, ugli fruit or starfruit.