Play It Cool With Lunch Box Ideas
For some kids, first and second break are the best school periods on the daily timetable. It is a time for playing with friends and when they can move around the school grounds carefree. It is also a time to open lunch boxes and see what is packed for break.
For moms, lunch boxes are often a headache. What do you pack, is it healthy and, more importantly, will my child eat it? However, lunch box snacks are an important aspect of going to school for kids because without the correct nutrients, the rest of the school day could be an uphill battle for kids.
So, what should go into your child’s school lunch box?
Energy-rich food is largely found in starches, but also in fats and proteins. Therefore it is wise to start with a starch base such whole-wheat bread, pasta, rice and breakfast cereal. Brown bread or whole-wheat options also provide fibre which is important for a health gut.
Fats are also a source of energy but should be used sparingly. However, ‘healthy’ fats such as omega 3 and 6 that are found in types of fish such as sardines and in nuts, are good and essential for the body. Your body also needs plant and animal fats but in much smaller quantities than those that are normally found in take-away meals of deep-fried dishes. Therefore, avoid ‘junk food’, but you can ensure that your child gets enough fats by, for example, spreading margarine on a sandwich or using mayonnaise with meat on bread.
Lunch box options: Whole-wheat bread, muesli flakes, leftovers from of the previous night’s meal containing starch (such as pasta) or wholegrain biscuits.
Protein-rich food includes red meat, chicken, fish, nut and beans, dairy products and eggs. Protein is important for growth. Protein sources rich in omega 3 fats are furthermore very good for brain functioning.
Lunch box options: Meat spread, fish spread or ham on bread, leftover meat portions of the previous night’s meal or leftover chicken strips on bread, hardboiled egg, nuts and seeds (trial mix). A portion of yoghurt or milk could also be regarded as a source of protein. Try to include at least one portion of protein in the lunch box.
To ensure that kids’ bones and teeth grow and are strong enough, your child should also have calcium-rich food in his lunch box. Dairy products are the best source of calcium.
Lunch box options: A small piece of cheese, as big as a match box, or a small tub of low-fat yoghurt. You could also pack low-fat or skimmed milk for your child, guard against flavoured milk that often contains a lot of sugar.
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are natural sources of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Furthermore, it contains natural sugar sources for energy and brain functioning as well as fibre (especially vegetables) that your body needs for adequate digestion. Fruit and vegetables are a must-have item for your child’s lunch box.
Lunch box options: Fresh fruit such as an apple, banana or grapes or any fruit that is in season, or add fresh fruit to a portion of yoghurt. Make sure that the fruit has been washed beforehand and is free from any toxins. You could also pack raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, blocks of sweet pepper or slices of cucumber. Raisins and other dried fruit are a good source of iron, but pack a smaller portion as it contains a lot of sugar.
Something to drink
It is very important that your child stays hydrated during the day. Especially on hot days it is essential that kids get enough water and other fluids to prevent them experiencing heat exhaustion.
Lunch box options: Clean, cool drinking water, cold rooibos tea (with not too much sugar), drinking yoghurt, low-fat milk, fresh fruit juice. Avoid carbonated drinks and cordials that contain too much sugar. If your kids do not want to drink plain water, you could pack cordial, but don’t make it too sweet. Sports drinks and energy drinks should be avoided as it often contains too much sugar and caffeine.
The abovementioned are all building blocks you need to pack a healthy lunch box. You could now put together a combination of lunch box options from every building block to ensure that you pack something to eat or drink for your child from the important food groups in moderate quantities.
Here are a few examples:
- a whole-wheat sandwich with ham and cheese, cold rooibos tea and a piece of fruit such as a banana
- leftover tuna pasta with a portion of carrot sticks and drinking yoghurt
- yoghurt with fresh fruit and nuts, cooked fish fingers, wholegrain biscuits
- cold samp, sliced cold meat, low-fat milk and a piece of fresh fruit such as an apple or a small bunch of grapes
- muesli and yoghurt, lightly salted popcorn, fresh fruit juice and a small portion of cheese or leftover meat
If your kids don’t like to eat the same meals often, swop ideas for lunch box snacks with your friends or other parents at school. Otherwise you could simply pack the same snacks in more creative ways.