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

Encourage healthy lifestyles by packing wholesome school lunch boxes

Childhood obesity is on the rise within our communities. This is largely owing to a poor diet that encourages overeating; and a lack of exercise as children become more reliant on online methods of entertainment, which keep them sedentary.

Obesity in children is a major concern, not only because it may affect the self-esteem of children, but also because it predisposes them to a number of lifestyle diseases that include glucose intolerance, diabetes and more. The sooner you do something about the weight concerns of your child, the easier it will be to resolve.

A good starting point would be to incorporate more physical activity to your child's lifestyle as well as ensure that they consume nutritious meals. A balanced, healthy lunchbox can include food from all food groups, here we take a look at nutritious ideas and tips to help you keep your child healthy. 

Foods you can include in your child's lunchbox: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 foods: high-fibre starches, such as wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice and potatoes provide energy.
  • Lean proteins: tuna, boiled eggs, beef, or chicken make for great protein 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).
  • Fruits and vegetables: apple slices, grapes, carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes.
  • Water to stay 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 healthy 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 keep them varied by including food from the different food groups to avoid boredom. You can occasionally include surprises like a bite-sized snack bar or portioned chips as a treat - this is to be kept to an occassional treat. 

By keeping lunch options varied and interesting, you will not only train your child's palate to enjoy a range of healthy foods, but you will also help ease them into enjoying a healthy lifestyle.

The content on this page was last updated on 17 October 2022