With summer holidays ending soon, it will be back to the school routine for many families with children.
However, with schools reopening, it is natural for parents to become more pressed for time. So how do you pack a child’s lunch quickly while ensuring it is healthy, nutritious and meets the growth and development needs of your child?
We’ve curated a list of things to consider that can make packing a healthy and nutritious lunchbox for children quick and hassle-free. Schools may have their own policy on what can be in a lunchbox so it’s always a good idea to check this too.
- Fruits and vegetables: Just eat more! Always keep the concept of 5 A DAY in mind. Include as many options of vegetables and fruits as possible in the lunch. Including foods of different colours like peas, sticks of carrots or pepper, berries, oranges, etc. will not only look attractive but will also provide essential vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well getting children used to eating different types.
- Starchy foods: Starchy foods provide fibre and a variety of nutrients such as B vitamins hence be sure to pack a portion of foods like bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and other grains. Wholegrain options like wholemeal pasta and bread provide more fibre and nutrients so it’s great to include these regularly. Sandwiches are a lunchbox staple, but you could also experiment with pasta, rice or couscous salads – if you’re cooking these for dinner you could make extra so it’s ready to use.
- Protein: Protein is important for children’s growth and development and protein-rich foods also provide important vitamins and minerals. Foods like beans, eggs, fish and meat, are high in protein and protein-rich food should always be a part of your child’s lunchbox. This could be tuna in a sandwich, chickpeas mixed with a rice salad or some sliced meat in a wrap.
- Dairy: What do milk, yogurt and cheese have in common? They are all part of the dairy food group and provide protein as well as being rich in calcium – essential for healthy bones and teeth. This could be cheese as a snack or in a sandwich, a milk-based drink or yogurt for pudding. When it comes to drinks, yogurts and other dairy puddings, check the label and go for lower sugar options. If your child has non-dairy alternatives, then make sure they are fortified with calcium and ideally other nutrients.
- Hydration: Always pack a drink! It is crucial that children drink fluids regularly as they have a higher proportion of body water and can get dehydrated more quickly than adults. Plain water is a great choice and milk and fruit juices are also other options. For milk and juice-based drinks, check labels and go for lower sugar options.
Additionally, here are some healthy and nutritious packed lunch ideas that can be prepared quickly:
- Home-made mini pizza: top mini pitta bread or muffins with a bit of tomato puree or sauce, vegetables like sweetcorn and peppers and some tuna or chicken with some grated cheese on top. Grill until the cheese is melted then cool.
- Pasta, rice or couscous salad: Include vegetables like peas, grated carrots or any left-over cooked vegetables. You could add a can of mixed beans, some chickpeas or try canned fish like tuna or salmon.
- Frittatas: handy to make in advance this can include any vegetables your child likes such as sweet potato, chickpea, and spinach as well as cheese, fish, or sliced meats.
Along with a drink, this meal will serve as a healthy option to meet your child’s nutritional requirements.
With a little prep and thought beforehand, squeezing time for preparing a tasty lunchbox can become both, less daunting for adults and a healthy option for children.
For more information, you can visit https://www.foodafactoflife.org.uk/whole-school/whole-school-approach/healthy-lunchboxes/