Encourage healthy lifestyles by packing wholesome school lunch boxes | Western Cape Government

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Encourage healthy lifestyles by packing wholesome school lunch boxes

An increasing problem, and cause for major concern, within our communities is the rise in childhood obesity. This is mainly due to poor diet and a lack of exercise.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a child's weight and height. BMI is one indicator of body fat percentage for most children and teens, and is an inexpensive and easy-to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems.

For children, BMI is used to screen for obesity, but it's important to remember that it's not a diagnostic tool. 

If you suspect your child is becoming overweight or even obese, the sooner you do something about it, the easier it will be to resolve. A good starting point is to make sure your child has healthy lunch boxes. Here are some practical tips:

A balanced, healthy lunchbox can include: Schoolgirl holding a healthy sandwich in her hand with an open lunch box in front of her and a bottle of a strawberry smoothie

  • Starchy food: brown bread, rice, potatoes or pasta.
  • Lean proteins: tuna, boiled eggs, beef, or chicken can make for great sandwich fillers.
  • Reduced fat dairy products: low fat yoghurt, reduced fat cheese or low fat milk. (Ensure these are kept chilled, either in a cooler bag or next to a frozen water bottle).
  • Fruit and vegetables: apple slices, grapes, carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes.
  • Water to keep them hydrated.

Preparing a healthy and safe lunchbox

  • Portions are also an important factor when planning your child’s lunch boxes.
  • Read food labels to ensure that you are choosing products low in saturated fats like coconut oil and butter.
  • Avoid foods that have a high sugar content. Sugar can be in the form of corn syrup, fructose, sucrose and dextrose.
  • As children often prefer flavoured drinks, try adding cordial or squash to their water but try to avoid highly coloured and artificially sweetened options.
  • Avoid high fat spreads and instead try avocado (with a little lemon to prevent browning) or low fat mayonnaise.
  • As a healthy snack between meals, offer your children dried fruit, peanuts or popcorn.

Take action

  • Plan ahead and buy healthy foods for your kids' lunch boxes.
  • Resist the "easy" option of buying cold drinks, chips and sweets.
  • Resist your children’s demands for high-fat snacks and fizzy cold drinks.
  • Include a variety of foods in the lunch boxes to ensure that your kids' diets are balanced.

A healthy lunch keeps active kids alert and focused, and gives them the nutrition they need every day.

Lunch boxes can be exciting and enticing if you vary the content by including food from the different food groups and prepare food differently to avoid boredom. Occasionally include surprises like a bite-sized chocolate or portioned chips as a treat.

By keeping lunch interesting, you will help to get your child to eat better while enjoying his or her meal, and being healthy.

The content on this page was last updated on 18 March 2020