Making a packed lunch for children every day can be quite a test of parents’ ingenuity, so here at Real Foods we’ve put our heads together to come up with some suggestions that may help.
It’s all too easy to fall into a boring routine of sandwich, crisps, chocolate bar and a drink. While that’s not an appalling daily diet, it could be better. There are some very simple immediate changes you could make – try replacing the crisps with some fruit or vegetable crisps such as Apple Snaps available at Real Foods.
Ringing the changes doesn’t have to be as difficult or time-consuming as it sounds. Most parents are doing a hundred and one things in the morning, so they’re obviously not going to whip up a gourmet three course meal. But there are some excellent quick and easy ways to make a child’s lunchbox a bit more interesting and healthier!
As they get older, get the children involved with choosing and making their lunch. They’ll probably be keener to eat it, it will take the burden off their parents and they’ll be learning great skills for the future.
A healthy lunchbox should help to improve your child’s attention, behaviour and learning throughout the afternoon.
It should contain:
- 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
Make sandwiches using protein fillings such as egg, hummus, guacamole or cheese. Make salads with tofu and pasta. Did you know that here at Real Foods we offer some of the cheapest organic eggs in Edinburgh? Hummus and cheese are also available.
Complex carbohydrates release calories slowly and help to keep up energy levels and concentration.
In contrast, refined carbohydrates (as in white bread, biscuits or cakes) provide instant, short-lived energy.
Choose complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, pasta, banana or rice. Pasta or rice salads make a nice change from sandwiches.
Try using different breads, pittas and rolls - whole wheat varieties are best and if they include interesting ingredients like nuts and seeds, so much the better. Check out the bread section at Real Foods for a wide selection of healthy bread options.
Children under the age of five shouldn’t have a low-fat diet, so choose whole-milk products such as Greek-style yoghurt.
Cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais, yoghurt drinks, smoothies and milkshakes are all excellent sources of calcium and may be found in the fridges at Real Foods.
Fruit and vegetables
Health experts recommend that we include five portions of fruit and vegetables in our diet every day. Buying organic fruit and vegetables will help reduce the risk of consuming pesticides unintentionally. Real Foods keeps a varied display of fresh, local and seasonal organic fruit and vegetables in their store whatever the season.
Whole fruit may not be that appealing to youngsters, so try cutting fruit into chunks and threading it onto skewers or thin straws. Include dried fruit too - dried apricots in particular are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Children who like pasta and rice might enjoy a salad made from either. Mix wholewheat pasta or brown rice with red pepper, mushroom and sugar snap peas or cherry tomatoes, feta and green beans.
Less adventurous children will probably still enjoy sticks of raw carrot, celery and courgette and some cherry tomatoes.
Apples are wonderful standbys as most children enjoy them. Try a Satsuma or a Clementine for a change. Grapes, bananas, strawberries and blueberries can also provide variety.
What not to put in your lunchbox
There are lots of foods that are marketed as ‘healthy’ and ‘ideal for lunchboxes’ that are neither. Here are some to avoid:
- Cereal bars: many cereal bars contain more than 40 per cent sugar and 30 per cent fat.
- Savoury snacks: cheese strings and similar foods tend to be highly processed and may contain high levels of saturated fat and salt.
- ‘Real fruit’ snacks: saying a product is made with ‘real fruit’ gives it a healthy spin. But take a closer look at the label and you may find that they contain as much as a whopping 63 per cent sugar!
- Fruit juice ‘drinks’: pure fruit juice contains 100 per cent fruit juice as you would expect. However a ‘fruit juice drink’ can contain as little as 6 percent juice.
To learn more about healthy lunch options read more here
For more tips on healthy habits to develop now we are back in the school routines read more here.