School’s back for the summer, and it’s usually about now that the reality of packing daily school lunches starts to set in. If you’re tired of lunch boxes coming home still full, you’re not alone.
Here are our top tips for healthy lunches for every age, and don’t forget to pick up the February issue of Healthy Food Guide to get your FREE back-to-school lunch box poster.
Preschool kids need vegies for growing. Most mums and dads understand the struggle of getting kids to eat their greens, so it’s no surprise that just five per cent of kids meet the recommended daily intake of vegetables and fruit.
Before you tear your hair out, keep in mind that a picky-eating phase is a natural part of development for preschoolers, and children may need to try new foods up to 10 times before they accept it.
It’s time for a little health by stealth! Offer fruit, vegies, and even sandwiches in fun, bite-sized shapes to pique interest. Or, try threading fruit onto skewers, or pairing vegies with one of your child’s favourite foods, like cheese.
Primary school kids need carbs for energy to play and learn. But, school-aged kids are notorious for being easily distracted by friends and often head off to play before eating. All that running and jumping in the schoolyard means their growing bodies need food that is quick, easy and healthy.
Carbs are vital for energy, but pre-packaged biscuits, cakes and sweet yoghurts give short spurts of energy, rather than all-day sustenance. At this age, it’s important to develop healthy eating habits for life, so aim for a mix of savoury, vegie-based snacks, as well as sweet ones like fruit and high-fibre muesli bars.
High school kids need calcium for strong bones. Teenager years are critical for building peak bone mass. The peak bone building time is 12½ years for girls and 14 years for boys, but most teens do not eat the recommended amounts of dairy foods, setting them up for a lifetime of weak bones.
As kids become more independent and start to make their own food choices, they may rely on high-fat convenience foods and takeaways, which can lead to weight gain and possibly missing out on important nutrients, such as calcium for healthy bones.
Snacks serve as a great opportunity to pack extra nutrition into a teen’s diet. Milk, yoghurt and cheese are the best sources of calcium and most kids will happily eat them at school. Try freezing yoghurt pouches or pack a small milk carton with an ice brick to keep it cool.