Stefanie Valakas, Dietitian, Baulkham Hills NSW
29th January 2019
It’s back to school season, which means parents are stumped as to what to put into their children’s lunchbox again! With almost 30% of a child’s intake across the day being eaten at school, what goes in your child’s lunchbox can certainly make a difference to their health and their learning.
As a children’s dietitian, I get the question “what do I put in my kid’s lunchbox?” regularly and I help parents utilise this simple healthy lunchbox formula to nourish their child’s body and brain for a day of learning, activity and fun!
Of course, you adjust this according to your child’s dietary needs, preferences, appetite, growth needs and activity levels.
Grow foods are protein-rich foods like meat, chicken, fish, tofu, eggs, legumes and beans, cheese, milk, yoghurt, nuts & seeds. Protein foods help your child stay full and also provide the necessary materials for growth. Include at least one portion of protein-rich food, this can be in a sandwich, leftovers, chicken strips, a boiled egg, a cheese stick, or a mini tin of baked beans.
Glow foods are colourful and provide lots of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to help nourish little bodies. Include 2-3 servings of fruit and veggies in your child’s lunchbox. This is usually a requirement for most primary school aged children due to the NSW government’s Crunch & Sip initiative, requiring a fruit or salad vegetable break.
Go with seasonal and pick something you’ve tried and tested with your child at home rather than experimenting with new foods in the lunchbox.
My top tip for encouraging your child to eat their fruit and veg is to ensure it is as accessible as possible to them come recess or lunchtime. Chopping fruit up, peeling it or giving them a cute little toothpick can all be useful strategies to encourage your child to eat their fruit and veggies.
Go foods provide energy to run and play, and fuel little brains to learn! Whole grains are a nourishing source of carbohydrates and also provide fibre, B vitamins and essential minerals. Switching to a grainy bread for a sandwich, using whole-wheat pasta, or including plain popcorn as a snack can all be handy ways to incorporate whole grains into your child’s lunchbox.
Make sure your child has access to a water bottle for adequate hydration, especially in the summer months. Go and pick out one they really like with a spout that is easy for them to use. Find out whether your child prefers chilled water or just room temperature. A double-walled stainless steel bottle can help keep water at a consistent temperature.
If it seems your child’s water bottle is coming home untouched, ask if they are using the school bubblers frequently.
Still struggling? Add a couple of drops of sugar-free cordial or try a fruit infusion of choice to boost your child’s fluid intake.
Keep it cool
Last but not least, ensure the contents of your child’s lunchbox is kept at an optimal temperature. Including an ice brick is the simplest way to ensure that their food is kept cool and can also help encourage them to eat their lunch. Nothing worse than a lukewarm milk popper or yoghurt tub!
Need some more help with nutrition for your child? Stefanie is available for one-on-one consultations at the Talbot Centre, get in touch with us to arrange an appointment.
Dietitian, Baulkham Hills NSW
Stefanie has a strong interest and passion for paediatric nutrition, with a focus on creating positive behaviours and habits around food from childhood leading to a positive relationship with food in adulthood. Stefanie also has an interest in perinatal and fertility nutrition and general nutrition support across the ages and works with a wide range of nutritional concerns, assisting individuals and families to navigate the confusing world of nutrition successfully.