What goes into a healthy lunchbox?

The lovely Mandy (who has just had her third baby a gorgeous little boy) from Little People Nutrition is sharing with us what goes into  a healthy lunchbox.  Great tips and inspiration to make balanced lunchboxes.

Lunchboxes, lunchboxes. I just calculated that although I have just started this journey of school lunchboxes…..I still have 2600 more to go until grade 12 is finished. Can that be right?

So although I am technically a nutritionist and love food, I also am a mum and the relentless nature of the lunchbox run can get old. So I get it, trust me. But as I do love a bit of food action, I thought it might be helpful to go over what are some good choices when balancing out a lunchbox day in day out.

What should go into a healthy lunchbox?

  1. Firstly, something your child will eat!

There is no point making a quinoa and fig salad if your child won’t eat the damn thing! Simplicity is key, ease of eating is key, and sadly speed in Australia is key, as the kids really don’t get much time and want to get up and play, even more the case when they get older and don’t have a teacher leering over their shoulder.

  1. From a ‘nutritionally’ balanced point of view?

Each lunchbox should aim to have:

  1. Some veggies of some sort
  2. Some protein of some sort
  3. Some carbohydrates of some sort
  4. Some fruit of some sort
  5. And something rich in calcium

Sounds like a lot, but there is some method to this madness……..

The reason for these recommendations is based on sound and extensive research out of NHRMC and based on Australian Dietary Guidelines as well as studies which have shown which food groups and macronutrients children are lacking or where they are obtaining their energy from (SPAN 2010).

The veggie card is based on the fact that no one in Australia, kids or adults are getting enough veggies. If a 5 year old is supposed to be getting 4 serves, they are not going to eat all of that at dinner time, so let’s start the veggie train early in the day.

Protein.There is no real issue with protein consumption in Australia, especially in adults, but the key for protein is to balance out the energy release of the other foods for the day and to avoid having too much quick energy and the resulting slump in mood post come down. Protein doesn’t have to be meat per se, it can be legumes, dairy, seeds or spreads of some sort.

Carbohydrates. Carbs are not just bread and pasta, they are found in fruits and dairy even. But a good wholegrain carbohydrate source for gut health and energy plays an important role in the daily energy intake of children. Mix it up with your grain sources or if you are gluten intolerant or a coeliac there are some fabulous options out there these days too.

Fruit. Fruit, surprisingly is also an area for concern with kids as children start to substitute their fruit intake with fruit juice. With the growing fruit juice or juicing trend it is important to point out that one of the main reasons we eat fruits (and vegetables) is their amazing vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. Fibre is incredibly important for gut and bowel health, heart health and also in assisting in children feeling full. Drinking our vitamins isn’t really as satisfying as eating our vitamins.

Calcium. One key area of research which does stand out is that as children start school their calcium intake often reduces as they are not consuming as much milk as they once did as a preschooler or younger child. Of course you can obtain calcium from other rich sources such as leafy green vegetables, salmon, legumes and nuts and seeds, but due diligence is required by families and parents to reach this level.

So here are some pretty pictures of some lunchboxes over the last 5 or so weeks which I have been putting together to try and cover off these points above.

What goes into a healthy lunchbox? What goes into a healthy lunchbox? What goes into a healthy lunchbox? What goes into a healthy lunchbox? What goes into a healthy lunchbox?

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