Something for the Lunch Box

The top 6 ingredients to remember for a lunch box:

1. Carbohydrates

The main fuel for the body and essential for active, growing kids. Whole grain starches keep kids fuller for longer. Go for fibre- and nutrient-rich options like seed bread, whole wheat pitas or crackers, corn, whole wheat pasta, sweet potato or brown rice.

2. Proteins

It should be included in all meals, as protein is essential for the young growing body to function optimally.  Include lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs and pulses.  Try to stay away from processed meats, as it’s high in saturated fats. Options for lunch boxes include proteins that can be packed individually like chicken strips or boiled egg; proteins that can be used for sandwich fillings like left over meats for dinner, tuna or if needed low fat cold meats (to limit saturated fat intake). Other options are to left-over chicken, fish or cheese to pasta salads.

3. Dairy and dairy alternatives

Dairy products are good sources of calcium, magnesium, vitamin B2 and vitamin D which aid the growth of strong bones and teeth and are thus a very important component of a healthy lunch box. If not on a weight restricted diet due to overweight opt for full fat or low fat milk and cheese. Yoghurt use plain yoghurt with no added sugar and add fruit puree to yoghurt to sweeten with natural sugars instead of refined sugars, or if you follow a full fat diet due to underweight use full fat unsweetened yoghurts – remember that kids over the age of 2 should be following adult guidelines regarding the type and amount of fats consumed. If a dairy allergy or is lactose intolerantly is diagnosed, use dairy alternatives like soy cultured yoghurt and soy or rice milk.

4. Fruit and/or vegetables

Fruit and vegetables should always be included. Sneak these nutrient-packed foods into meals and snacks as often as possible, and keep options exciting — fruit kebabs and vegetable sticks for dipping into yummy dips like hummus and guacamole. Snack packs at retailers makes it easy for kids to eat more fruit and vegetables with options like vegetable snack packs, fresh fruit snack pots and mini dried fruit snack options. Opt for raw and fresh rather than cooked or pressed, as fresh is highest in nutrients to help your child’s body to maintain good health.

5. Small portions of healthy fats

Healthy fats found in plants (nuts, seeds, avocado pear and plant oils) and oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon, and herring) maintain cell membranes, aid absorption of vitamins and assist brain development and should be included in small quantities at most meals.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal brain function. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most abundant w-3 fatty acid in cell membranes in the brain but the human body is not efficient at synthesizing it. The body is therefore largely dependent on dietary DHA, which is found in oily fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and trout.

Aim to include fish (including oily fish) in your child’s diet two to three times a week.

6. Water!

Water being the best choice to add fluid to your child’s lunchbox to keep the body hydrated throughout the day! Fluid is essential for life; our bodies are made up of more than half water; if we don’t replenish our supplies we won’t survive for more than a few days! Increase the “kid appeal” of water by adding fresh fruit juice or crushed fresh fruit, freezing, and serving as fruit slush in funky water bottles.

Homemade iced tea is also very good. Boil 4 Rooibos tea bags in 1-liter water with 4 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick (can add 1 star aniseed as well). This can be enjoyed as is without any added sugar or if you would like to sweetened add half tea and half fresh unsweetened fruit juice or a bit of honey.

Categories: Healthy Lifestyle