It’s back to school for most of the country this week and time again to think up some inspiring ideas for what to put in your child’s lunchbox. It can be a real challenge to come up with different healthy options and avoid being stuck in the rut of jam sandwiches and tuck shop money. Paediatric Dietitian, Lindsay Archibald-Durham, has some great tips and ideas to inspire you!
It’s all about balance
We all want our children to be able to perform at optimum levels at school and ensuring their diet is nutritionally balanced will assist with concentration, memory and behaviour. Children should follow a balanced and varied diet including fruits, vegetables, protein, fat and complex carbohydrates to maintain adequate energy for school as well as after school activities and homework. Sustaining adequate levels of glucose throughout the day and minimizing fluctuations between meals contributes to optimising cognition and reducing slumps in energy. It’s important to avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates, and instead choose to put wholegrain complex carbohydrates in your child’s lunchbox combined with protein and healthy fats.
Include nutrients that aid concentration
The following nutrients are important to include in your child’s diet to aid concentration and cognitive function. Here are some foods that you can try and include more of in your child’s diet.
- Iron: Obtained from beef or chicken liver, red meat (beef or lamb), oysters, clams, mussels, canned sardines, fish and chicken. Vegetarian sources include: beans, tofu, pumpkin seeds, dried apricots and raisins, nuts, spinach, broccoli. Iron from plant-based sources are not as well absorbed, and should be taken with Vitamin C (such as a glass of orange juice) to increase the iron absorption.
- Omega 3: Oily fish (such as salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, pilchards, sardines), flaxseeds, linseeds, chia seeds and soya beans
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1): Fish, pork, nuts, seeds, whole-wheat bread, squash, asparagus, soya beans
- Vitamin E: Nuts and seeds (and their oils), tofu, spinach, avocado, fish, shellfish, broccoli, pumpkin
- Vitamin B12: Shellfish, liver (beef), fish, red meat (beef or lamb), cheese, eggs, milk and yeast extract spreads, e.g. Marmite
- Iodine: Cranberries, white fish, shellfish, milk, yoghurt and sea vegetables such as kelp
- Zinc: Seafood, beef, lamb, wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, nuts, cocoa, chicken, pork and beans
Some great lunchbox ideas
Stocking your child’s lunchbox can be simple, think fresh fruit, boiled eggs, nuts, biltong or dried wors or homemade popcorn, or if you’re feeling a little adventurous, here are some more healthy lunchbox ideas to inspire you (and your child!):
- Mozzarella, pesto and tomato on rye bread sandwiches
- Tuna and baby potato salad
- Chicken and pineapple salad
- Meatball or falafel pitas
- Ham, cheese and salad wraps
- Baked honey-lime drumsticks
- Mini egg, ham and vegetable frittatas
- Parmesan pita crisps with hummus or guacamole
- Guacamole or hummus with veggie sticks or wholegrain crackers.
- Bran and banana muffins
- Apple-crumble squares
- Yoghurt – consider freezing yoghurt tubes which will keep the rest of the lunch cool and keep the yoghurt fresh in the summer heat.
And if your children are already tired of peanut butter or marmite sandwiches, why not stock up on some Munching Mongoose Munch Packs to mix it up and take the stress out of planning. They include a healthy snack selection of nuts, popcorn, biltong, crisps, dried fruit and energy bars, all free from refined sugar and preservatives. They’re the perfect back-to-school lunchbox companion!
This blog post was written in partnership with Paediatric Dietitian, Lindsay Archibald-Durham.