The school holidays are well and truly over. Some of you may be noting this with a sigh of relief! But as kids return to the classroom, so do their lunches; the important part we all need to know is what to pack, so they stay alert and active throughout the day. We quizzed paediatric nutrition expert Lynsey Bramley, on her tips for nutritious, back-to-school lunches that kids will actually eat!
A Variety of Veggies
Four to eight year olds need 4.5 serves of veggies per day. So Lynsey says, “Make sure kids get familiar with veggies in their lunches, from the start of their school experience”. And make it fun for them! Pair cherry tomatoes, snow peas or baked sweet potato chippies, with veg or nut based dips that they can dip into. They won’t eat veggies, we hear you say? See below.
Kindy kids are known fussy eaters. To prevent pickiness, get creative. Cut veggies up into different shapes, use kebab sticks, and make smiley faces wherever possible. Lynsey also recommends, using a ‘bento-box’ of sorts, with lots of small compartments, so kids can grab food quickly. Bite-sized wraps or sandwiches, handfuls of fruit and nuts, and whole grain crackers are perfect for kids on the go. Not least of all, they make school lunches exciting!
Primary School Kids
Pushing the Boundaries
As children get older, they start to assert their personalities more. This means they may be a bit more demanding when it comes to junk food they see in the supermarket. To combat this, Lynsey suggests “Involve them in the preparation the night before, as they are more likely to eat a lunch they have created themselves”. Include tried and true favourites, as well as newer, healthy treats – be it mini frittata muffins, veggie fritters or pikelets – all of which can be pre-made, frozen and ready to go. “Ultimately, if you involve them in meal prep, get creative and simply don’t put the ‘junk’ in, kids will accept the wholesome foods if they are truly hungry” says Lynsey.
Tweens & Teens – The Dreaded Canteen
They don’t call it a Can-teen for nothing! At this age, your kids are increasingly independent and socialised, meaning they’ll want to spend their pocket money at the tuck-shop with friends. But how do we keep them from buying zooper doopers and doughnuts? Lynsey suggests maintaining a dialogue around canteen eating throughout the year, to encourage a positive relationship with food and school lunches. “Emphasise visits to the canteen and other eating spots are not an everyday thing” says Lynsey. “Instead, explain the value of whole food in a way that resonates with their interests. For example, if your child enjoys cricket, explain that the iron in red meats and dark greens will provide more power and energy on the pitch.”
Eating for All Age Groups
No matter what their age, ensure the lunch box is balanced with wholefood ingredients. The more food groups you include, the more likely your child will get the optimum variety of nutrients to fuel their day. And what about fluids? Lynsey’s advice is “avoid soft drinks, cordials, juice poppers, flavoured milk. Stick with good, old fashioned water.”
If you have a fussy eater or child with allergies and/or intolerances, book with us to see our paediatric dietitian, Lynsey, for specialised dietary advice.