I worked for a few years as a teacher at a full day art camp and it used to make me sad to see the lunches that some parents packed for their children.
I sometimes saw kids who had nothing but a can of Coca Cola and a packet of crisps or a piece of leftover pizza to eat in their lunch. I once saw an overweight nine year old whose lunch consisted of a sugary pastry and a soft drink, both from Starbucks.
Perhaps these parents were in a rush or were too busy the night before to pack a nutritious lunch for the day. Maybe they didn’t have any food or veg boxes in the house. However, as their teacher I saw these children hit a sugar high about an hour after lunch break and then become tired and cranky. They had more trouble concentrating on the lesson and they often complained of being hungry by the end of the day.
The reality is that if you can pack your children a filling and nutritious lunch with veg, fresh fruit, whole grains and lean protein, you will give them such an advantage at school, summer camp or any other lessons that you send them off to. Having healthy food in their belly will give them academic super powers in the sense that it will help them concentrate better, improve their brain function, give them more energy and generally let them perform their best.
One of the hardest parts of putting together healthy lunches is figuring out what to put in them. You have to have a variety of different foods so that your kids don’t get bored and you want foods which travel well and can survive being squished into a backpack all morning. What you pack will depend on the types of foods that your child likes, but here are some general tips to keep in mind:
- A fruit salad is a great way to get lots of healthy vitamins into your child and most kids love them. Cut the fruit into small bite sized pieces so it is easy for your child to eat. Avoid apples and bananas, which will be brown by lunchtime, choose kiwifruits, grapes, melons, oranges and strawberries instead.
- You can also pack veg boxes with bite sized baby carrots, broccoli and cucumber slices with some ranch dressing for dipping.
- An easy option is to send leftovers from the healthy meal you cooked last night. For example, if you made a soup, casserole or stew that your child enjoyed you can put some leftovers in a thermos for their lunch.
- Whole wheat pasta with veggies and a little bit of sauce is a great option. Add some olive oil to prevent it from sticking.
- You can send a dessert with your child’s lunch, but make it bite sized such as a small piece of chocolate or make it include fruit such as a blueberry muffin or fruit and yogurt.
- Whole wheat tortilla wraps are delicious when wrapped up with lean chicken, lettuce, salsa and shredded cheese. The tortilla might get soggy if you make it beforehand, so you could send each ingredient in a small containers and veg boxes so that your child can make their own fajitas when they get to school.
- Trail mix, with lots of seeds, nuts and dried fruit, is a great snack and contains lots of healthy energy. Instead of buying expensive pre-packaged trail mix which contains lots of sugar, make your own by mixing in the nuts and fruits that your child likes.
- When it comes to meat, choose lean meats such as chicken breast, turkey, lean ham or roast beef rather than pepperoni, salami and bacon.
- Think of ways that you can make the food that you pack for your children fun. Cut a tuna sandwich in the shape of a fish or make a smiley face with raisins on a piece of bread and peanut butter.
- Go for low fat dairy products, such as a few slices of light cheese or a cup of yogurt which is low in sugar.
- Make sure that the food that you pack for your kids is easy to eat without making a mess. Pack vegetables into veg boxes so they don’t get squished. Cut juicy fruit such as peaches, plums and watermelon into slices, or they will end up with fruit juice all over their faces, hands and desks. Trust me.
Packing healthy food for their school lunches is one of the biggest favours you can do for your children, so make sure your kitchen and veg boxes are well stocked. It will nourish their bodies and superpower their brains in order to feel better and excel in the classroom.
Charlotte Rivington loves to blog about Beauty, Food and Drink covering a range of scrumptious topics from healthy tips to milk&more fruit basket. She loves shopping, eating healthily and keeping fit.