By Nomali Cele
Plus healthy lunchbox tips!
When you were growing up, did you carry a healthy lunchbox? How does this compare to what you are filling your child’s lunchbox with, today? These days, in a shifting world of tuck shop realities, healthy food options and the awareness of bad foods, school lunch during term time creates two scenarios: 1. Your child is the child always having the most fun lunch every day because you have given them money to buy from the tuck shop. Or 2. Your child is the child trading with tuck shop children because they are bored with what they are eating. Trading with a child with a tuck shop lunch wouldn’t be a problem if the tuck shop offered healthy lunch options.
So, how do you strike a balance to make sure your child not only eats the healthy lunchbox you want them to but also enjoys it?
- Plan ahead
To succeed in your pursuit of a healthy lunchbox, you have to plan ahead. This is the foundation of all good meals, plan ahead for the week and do the grocery shopping accordingly. Doing a small, weekly lunchbox shop will help keep the fresh produce fresh and make the menu exciting. Involve your child in the weekly lunchbox shopping as it’s a good way to teach them other skills, ranging from planning to budgeting.
Gather as much information as you can to better strike a balance between what your child needs to eat and what they want eat.
Remember: Always get what’s in season. It’s kinder to the environment to eat fruit and veggies that are currently in season and it’s also easier on your pocket.
Listen to the full conversation here:
- Prepare early
Try to make preparing the lunchboxes a nightly routine. Not only will it save you time in the mornings, but it’s also a good way of getting your child involved. If you have made a chart or set a menu in the planning stage, allow your child to gather the ingredients for each day’s lunch and tick them off.
Remember: To keep things exciting, get recipes and find a way to make your child’s favourite junk food healthy from wholegrain veggie pizzas to chicken breast and broccoli burgers.
- Care for the lunch boxes
A good lunch box kit that includes a lunch tin, medium-size water bottle and cooler bag (to keep the food cool or warm) can prove to be quite the arsenal to keep track of. Create a system that includes a reward for each term your child takes good care of their lunch kit. The deal could stipulate the following:
- Bring all pieces of the kit back home every day;
- Throw out unfinished bits of food (especially on Fridays); and
- Make sure the kit is washed daily before lunch is packed.
- Snack attack!
Supplementing their healthy lunchbox with good snacks is as easy and throwing a few snack options in a zip lock bag. The snack component will help your child when they get hungry either before lunch or after school. This way, you will be on top of what they are snacking on. Snacks should always include some of your child’s favourites.
Good snack options include the following:
- Baby carrots (and other fuss-free vegetables);
- Fruit (easy-to-package options such as grapes, berries etc);
- Yoghurt; and
- Nuts (if your child is not allergic).
An idea of what goes into a balanced lunchbox:
Starch: Good grains, whole grain bread, potatoes, rice and more
Protein: Lean sandwich meats, beans, fish, chicken and cheese make for healthy and easy protein options.
Greens: Leafy salad greens, juicy tomatoes, grated beetroot, fruits like whole oranges, apples and mangoes depending on the season. More greens can be included in the snacks, think homemade smoothies.
Drink: In the South African climate, it’s important for your child to carry water or have a water bottle they can refill. Also note that not all fruit juices are made equal and milk is a good, needed drink for growing bodies and minds.
During the planning stage, you can negotiate a weekly or monthly treat with your child and allow them to choose from chocolate, crisps and other not-so-healthy treats. Or R5 to spend on their favourite tuck treat.
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