A healthy lunchbox will improve your child’s attention, behaviour and learning throughout the day and into the afternoon, yet three out of four of the five million children’s lunch boxes prepared in British homes every weekday are not meeting basic health standards.
A survey from the Food Standards Agency has revealed that too many lunch boxes contained foods that were too high in saturated fat, salt or sugar and almost half of all lunches failed to include any fruit.
A diet laden with foods which are high in fat, salt and refined carbohydrates will reduce mental awareness and could also lead to issues in adulthood such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
A child’s school lunch should be provide one third of their daily nutrient requirements and should contain the following:
- A source of protein to keep children alert
- Complex carbohydrates for slow-release energy
- Calcium for growth, healthy bones and teeth
- Fruit and vegetables for vitamins and minerals
- Try to steer clear of ‘convenience’ lunch box foods which claim to be healthy but on closer inspection are sugar and salt laden. Cereal bars can contain more than 40 per cent sugar with certain yoghurts including more than five teaspoons. Some snacks describe themselves as ‘real fruit snacks’, but can contain up to 63 per cent sugar and the same goes for fruit juice drinks, which are frequently less than 10 per cent juice and are packed with artificial flavouring, sugar and sweeteners.Creating healthy lunches for children doesn’t have to be time consuming and difficult. Below are some great tips from the BBC which help to make nutritious lunches tasty and fun:1.Children loose interest quickly in things which require effort to eat, this includes fruit! Make things easier for them by pre peeling fruit and covering it or putting it into a pot. Mini fruit salads or bite size peeled fruit cubes on a skewer will look far more exciting than an unpeeled apple.
2.Save time and prepare lunches beforehand. Big pasta salads can be made in advance and frozen in small portions. Sandwich fillings can be prepared at the weekend and used throughout the week and last nights dinner can make a great next days lunch.
3.Take note of what has remained untouched at the end of the day. Ask why your child hasn’t enjoyed their lunchbox (without being defensive) and if there is anything they would like to try instead.
4.Soggy food is a big no no, so if you have made a salad then it is a good idea to keep the dressing in a different pot.
5.Keep vegetable sticks moist by wrapping them in some moist kitchen paper.
6.During the colder months its a nice idea to include something warm. Use a Thermos flask for some healthy winter warming soup.
7.In the summer months the contents of a lunchbox can be warm and soggy by break time so keep it cool by popping a carton or juice bottle into the freezer the night before and this will act as a cooler throughout the day.
8.We know that crisps and chocolate are high in salt and fat and are not ideal for lunch boxes, however, if they are to be included then reduce the portion size. Wrap half a packet of crisps in some foil or include a fun size chocolate bar.
9.Add a personal touch by putting jokes and stickers and fun napkins into your child’s lunch box. A smiley face drawn onto a banana or sandwiches cut into novelty shapes using biscuit cutters will go a long way in keeping interest.
10.Use the weekend to cook and bake healthy snacks with your child which can then be used for lunches throughout the week.