Packing a healthy lunchbox each day is one of the most important things you can do to help with your children’s mood, behaviour and learning. No pressure there, right?
But packing a healthy lunchbox is not always easy to achieve when you’re juggling getting breakfast sorted and making sure everyone is getting ready for school and work. Then there’s the challenge of making the lunchbox exciting enough to get your child to eat it. This can sometimes mean you start the day with a fair amount of stress, even before school and work starts. With that said, packing healthy lunchboxes doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s a few tips to help – I call them, Packing A Healthy Lunchbox Made Simple.
1. Plan Ahead
Think about what you are going to pack for lunches the night before, or even better, plan for the whole week. Then, the act of packing the lunchbox each day will be far less stressful. Try to avoid including packaged foods (e.g. chips, biscuits, muesli bars, poppers etc) because these tend to have additives and preservatives included, many of which have adverse effects on behaviour.
2. Use Evening Meals as Lunches
This is one of the simplest ways to add diversity to lunch boxes. Use evening meal leftovers for lunch, or repurpose the evening meal to make it into something entirely different for lunches, e.g. roast chicken can become a chicken pasta salad. If you don’t normally have leftovers from your evening meal, cook a double batch. Some can be for lunch tomorrow, then you can easily freeze the remainder for use in the future. If your children don’t like eating cold leftovers, you may like to read How To Get Kids To Eat Cold Leftovers.
3. Pack a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables
Each different colour of fruit and vegetables help support different parts of the body. For instance, red foods such as berries and tomatoes are good for your heart and memory. Try to include as many colours of the rainbow as possible in your lunch box. Factor this into your plan. An easy way to do this, is to ask your children what fruits and vegetables from each colour they like.
4. Pack Good Carbs and Proteins
It’s important to ensure the lunch box includes complex carbohydrates such as starchy fruits and vegetables for longer lasting energy. Include a good quality protein such as egg or chicken (hormone free) to help fill them up so they stay fuller for longer, and help with their growth and development.
Here’s a few good examples of foods you can include.
Oranges, banana, cherries, grapes, cherry tomatoes, apple (whole or cut on the day and sprinkle with lemon juice to minimise it going brown). Where you can, choose local produce that’s in season or at the very least, produce from Australia.
Carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber, celery, broccoli, beans, corn. Where you can, choose local produce that’s in season or at the very least, produce from Australia.
Brown rice, quinoa, wholegrain bread or pasta
Chicken, raost beef, chick peas, eggs, hommus, yoghurt, cheese
Quite often, our jobs in packing a healthy lunchbox are made more difficult by what’s in other children’s lunchboxes. If this is an issue for you, my suggestion is to make your own healthy treats so your child does not feel like they are missing out.
Some examples are homemade popcorn, mueseli bars, slices, muffins, bliss balls. Also have a few back up packaged products which you are happy with (eg. for us, I choose Peckish Brown Rice Crackers and Pure Harvest Organic Rice Cakes because they are additive and preservative free).
Personally, I do not believe children need treats everyday. The definition of a treat is “out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.” Something that happens every day can not really be considered out of the ordinary. Perhaps you can randomly throw in a treat a couple of days a week, or with your child, choose specific days to have them.
5. Quick Checklist
Use this as a quick checklist for your lunchbox. Have you packed:
– 1 Fruit
– at least 1 Vegetable
– a Wholegrain source (brown rice, quinoa etc)
– a Protein source
– Healthy Snack (home-made or look for additive and preservative free options)
And my last check is to ask yourself whether you’d enjoy eating that lunchbox.
Please feel free to visit our recipes for some lunchbox ideas. You may also like to join us for Term 1 2018 of The 5 Minute Healthy Lunchbox System™ eCourse. It’s a 5 week self paced online course. It includes a proven 4 step process to help you pack healthy lunchboxes in about 5 minutes a day, over 140 recipes plus 12 weeks of menu plans and shopping lists. You’ll also get access to a wonderful supportive Facebook Group, content from our panel of 15 expert contributors plus video tutorials, printables and more! Learn more and enrol here.