As any mother of school-going children knows, packing a healthy lunchbox that the kids won't tire of easily, is often the first challenge of the day.
Here are some tips to help you take the guess work out of what's good for them, and what not, and for some new ideas for what to pack.
WHAT TO AVOID
Avoid any items that contain hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils, sugar, preservatives, colourants, flavourants, MSG or any E-numbers or letters that point to nothing natural at all.
Avoid fizzy drinks loaded with sugar, and keep biscuits and cookies as treats only.
Avoid processed foods and prepackaged products such as oily potato chips, chocolate bars, doughnuts, sweets and pies - these are made up mostly of fats, sugar and refined starch with hidden salt and preservatives, none of which are healthy in these amounts.
RATHER GIVE THEM
Lunchboxes should be nutritionally balanced, which means you need a protein, good fats, carbohydrates as well as fresh fruit and a drink. Choose foods that are rich in fibre and include one dairy product a day.
Good proteins: eggs, free range grilled chicken strips, baked fish cakes, dolphin friendly tuna in brine and Woolies' organic peanut butter , which is packed with high-quality plant protein and contain mosty beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Good carbs: wholeweat rolls or pita breads, pasta or rice salad. Click here for a list of low-GI foods that will keep energy levels up for longer.
Good dairy: low fat cheese and yoghurts, fruit smoothies made with soya or rice milk if your child is dairy intolerant. Try our organic peanut butter and banana smoothie.
- For healthier hot dogs, choose sausages carefully. Look for those that are lower in fat, salt and additives. Fresh chicken sausage is a great alternative to beef, boerewors or viennas. Boil, bake or dry fry the sausages. Serve on whole-wheat bread rolls with salads such as lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
- Instead of using processed luncheon meat try using leftover meat from the night before. For instance, chop up leftover chicken to make a chicken salad sandwich.
Good drinks: Buy 100 percent fruit juice boxes and be sure they say 100 percent juice, not just 10 percent. (The other 90 percent is sugar.) Pop them in the freezer, then put a box in a small plastic bag when packing your lunch. It's a great way to keep other items in the bag cold until lunchtime.
- Kids love snacks and dips. Pop seedless grapes, sweet grapes, cherry tomatoes, strips of cucumber and baby carrots in a bag.
Put a dip made of blended chickpeas and lemon juice or cream cheese in a small container and into the lunchbox.
Or try creamy tuna dip with dill or warm bean dip with parsnip chips
- Buy family-sized bags of baked potato chips and corn tortilla chips (not fried) then pack them up in small, individual bags and store in the pantry ahead of time. Pack as a treat now and again.
- Rice and pasta salads are easy to make, and make a filling lunch. Add fresh vegetables as far as you can (such as chopped sweet peppers, celery, tomato) along with grated cheese, tinned tuna, cooked chicken or chopped boiled egg with some tinned peas or corn. Try Greek pasta salad-filled pita breads or wild rice salad
- Kids love kebabs - make chicken and veg kebabs ahead of time, or thread a variety of firm, cut fruits and cheese on a skewer and cover in plastic film or pack tightly. Try minced lamb kebabs or fresh fruit kebabs
SOME QUICK SNACK IDEAS TO PACK
- Preservative-free dried fruits or Woolworths' assorted mini fruit rolls or kids' fruitie snacks
- Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame
- Preservative-free trail mixes - make your own by mixing nuts, seeds, raisins, dried fruits and coconut flakes
- Natural yoghurt mixed with fruit puree or chopped fruit
- Woolworths' organic mini yoghurt and strawberry rice cakes
- Healthy, organic snack bars, such as Woolworths' hand-made sunflower, sesame seed and almond bars
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Fruit kebabs (papaya, pineapple, mangoes, pears, apples) sprinkled with crushed almonds
- Cottage cheese topped with walnuts and fruit
- Cubes of mild cheese in a container with baby tomatoes and strips of cucumber. Really convenient is Woolworths' ready-packed cheese, cucumber and carrot snack packs
SOME LUNCHBOX FILLERS TO MAKE AT HOME
Pasta salad filled pita breads
Chick on a stick
Lovely plump corn fritters
A classic chicken sandwich with home-made mayo
The healthy Ceasar sandwich
Citrus and date muffins - can be baked in bulk
Delicious pumpkin, cheese and rosemary muffins (omit the rosemary as this herb is quite strong and may put the child off)
All kids love Peanut butter cookies
What's your tip tip for a healthy lunchbox?
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