Written by Suzie Garmeister of Branch and Vine Nutrition – Fd. Dip Nutrition & Holistic Health
Feeling overwhelmed about how to feed your kids a healthy school lunch?
With 3 boys, 3.5 years apart, I have spent much ‘loving’ time in the kitchen ensuring they are not hindered in their development by what they eat. I have seen first hand the consequences that unhealthy food choices can have on behaviour and learning.
What’s an unhealthy lunchbox? Unfortunately it’s often the most common, because it is quick and easy! It includes; processed packet foods such as chips, cakes, biscuits, cookies, white bread with a basic spread, high-sugar muesli bars, flattened ‘fruit’ roll ups, flavoured milks, juices and soft drinks. These ‘foods’ are laden with sugar, vegetable oils and additives that do not to support the growth, energy and focus that children need.
A healthy lunch box consists of a balance of fresh healthy proteins, healthy fats and unrefined (whole) carbohydrates to provide longer term, sustainable energy, growth, brain function and balanced behaviour. Home-made is best by far.
But a healthy lunch box takes know-how and time! I hear you! Over the years I have learnt some time-saving tricks to make this important task more achievable. Read on for my top 10 tips for making healthy lunch boxes…
1) Hot Hot Hot: Invest in a good hot food thermos for easy serving of left overs & other healthy alternatives to sandwiches. (Can also be used to keep food cold eg: salads).
2) Fro-Zone: Have frozen ice packs on hand to put in each lunchbox keep dairy & protein at safe temperatures.
3) Love Leftovers: Make extra for dinner, reheat and serve in hot food thermos. (eg: spaghetti bolognaise, curry, casserole, fried rice).
4) Batch it Up: On weekends, cook up a batches of: a) Beef, salmon or tuna patties ready for easy heating in the morning. Add to a salad with avocado or cheese or serve hot. b) Chicken, bacon or other protein, chop and freeze for easy use in hot meals, salads or sandwiches. c) Homemade healthy additions, eg. choc protein balls, muffins, quiche.
5) Muffin Fresh: Make a few days worth of home made healthy muffin mixture and store in a sealed container in fridge ready to spoon out into baking cups and into oven in the morning while the rest of lunchbox is prepared. (Particularly good for gluten-free which can dry out if pre-made in batches)
6) Chop to It: Pre chop up 3 days worth of veggie sticks and store wrapped in a damp tea towel in a sealed container in fridge. Serve with mashed avocado or salsa dip.
7) Take 3: First thing in morning, place sausages* in baking dish with 1/2 cm of water and place in oven (20-30mins). Go about your morning routine. Once cooked, use in salads, wraps or hot food container.
*go for quality, organic, preservative free.
8) Mix it Up: Buy good quality plain yogurt. Divide up into smaller sealed lunchbox containers. To zip lock bags, add a palm full of fresh or frozen berries, seeds and nuts (if permitted by school) and freeze. Add yogurt container, zip lock bag and spoon to lunch box ready for kids to mix before they eat. (Add ice pack).
9) Popping Good: Instead of packet chips laden with vegetable oils and additives, whip up some popcorn the old fashion way. Takes 5 mins. Take a saucepan, add butter, kernels and Himalayan salt. Pop away. Add more melted butter at end to taste.
10) Night Before: Think about what healthy choices can go into the lunchbox. What can you do tonight while cooking dinner, to save you time in the morning? Do you need to defrost anything? Boil an egg and store in fridge for salad or snack. Think healthy proteins, fats and unprocessed carbohydrates.
Try out these tips and let me know how you go!
For more helpful articles and posts, such as Suzie’s recent ‘Healthy Lunch Box Ideas & Recipes’ article, you can head to Branch and Vine Nutrition’s Facebook page.