Children spend a large part of their day at school. So when planning a lunchbox take into consideration that your child will need to eat a third of their daily requirements while at school. Adequate nutrition is not only essential to give a child energy to get through the day, but it also plays a vital role in cognitive function, learning and concentration. Ensure your child always eats a good breakfast at home. Pack a lunchbox with a mid-morning snack and a meal for midday.
Similar to a healthy plate of food a healthy lunchbox should contain starch, protein, fat, fruit and vegetables. Use your child’s hand as a portion guide:
A fist size for starch and fruit
A palm size for protein
A thumb size for fat
One or two hands full for vegetables
Choose high fibre starches like wholegrain breads/wraps/pitas/crackers/pasta/rice with one or two protein options such as meat/chicken/fish/cheese/cottage cheese/peanut butter/hummus/unprocessed cold meat. Also include vegetables, a small serving of fruit and a small serving of fat. To ensure good calcium intake children need three servings of dairy per day. Pack at least one serving of dairy into their lunchbox like milk/yoghurt/kefir/amasi/cheese. For hydration pack a bottle of water or otherwise a low sugar cordial or diluted fruit juice.
Example 1: Half a wholegrain wrap filled with tuna, cottage cheese, a teaspoon light mayonnaise and vegetables. Plus a small apple and a small packet of nuts.
Example 2: Half a wholegrain pita filled with chicken, hummus, a wedge of avocado and vegetables. Plus a small bunch of grapes (size of child’s fist) and a small yoghurt.
Be careful of snacks, juices and yoghurts that are marketed for children. These items often contain high amounts of sugar. Read the nutritional information table and choose products that are low in fat and sugar. Children should not consume unhealthy snacks like sweets, chocolate and chips on a daily basis - reserve these as an occasional treat.