With every new generation of school going kids, comes the important topic of healthy school lunch boxes. What are some of the healthy things to include in the lunchbox? Why is it important for kids to eat healthy foods while they are at school? What are the best drinks for lunchboxes?
We chatted to registered dietitian Maretha Vermaak from Rediscover Dairy, for some ideas and tips about what to include in the lunchbox, as well as ideas for including dairy in the school lunchbox.
Regular eating is important, to keep your child going through out the school day, and to maintain energy levels by providing a healthy lunch box that will help to keep your child focussed and improve their all over performance.
Maretha says that the most important things to consider when making a healthy school lunch box are:
Make sure you include a variety of foods
Keep it balanced – combine at least three foods from different food groups
Make it colourful
Use fresh products
Make it fun to eat
Her top tips lunchbox tips are:
Try and include a starchy food every time you pack your child’s lunch box.
This can contribute to keeping children’s energy levels up. Focus on including whole grains: whole-grain carbohydrates are a good source of nutrients that provide a sustained source of energy. They are also high in fibre, which helps to keep your children’s bowel movements regular. Fibre also helps to keep them fuller for longer.
Make sure you include good fats.
Healthy fats and unsaturated fats are vital for good health and are found in avocado pear, plant oils, nuts, seeds and fatty fish. They provide energy, help to protect organs and help with healthy brain function.
Pack in the protein.
Protein is essential for growth and the development of child’s muscles, bone, nails and organs. Protein also provides sustained energy and helps them to stay fuller for longer. You can try and include lean meat or chicken, eggs, legumes or dairy products such as milk, unsweetened yoghurt and reduced-fat cottage cheese as protein sources. Try to keep away from processed meats such as polony and cured meats as these are high in salt and unhealthy fats.
Make sure they stay hydrated.
Water is best for keeping your children hydrated and healthy. You can add lemon, mint, ginger or strawberries to the water to make it more appealing.
Have fun with fruit and vegetables.
Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that are essential to help meet a child’s dietary requirements. Add some lettuce, tomato and cucumber to your cheese sandwich or add raw carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, sugar peas and cucumber slices on the side to snack on.
Make sure your child gets three portions of dairy daily. The calcium found in dairy is good for developing strong bones, and the vitamins and minerals present in dairy helps to support the immune system and overall health.
Thando Msomi, from Modern Zulu Mom, shared some of her go to ‘dairy in the lunchbox’ tips with us:
Cheese wedges: These are easy to snack on, and Lesedi enjoys these to supplement an empty-ish stomach before playing soccer after school. The good quality protein will help him build and maintain his body, to keep him preforming at his best!
Cheese sandwiches: These are a classic – children love them and they can be prepared in various ways. Mixing them up with lettuce, tomato, avo, or hummus adds some colour to the lunch box. Get creative with it by using different types of bread, cutting it into shapes and other starch like wraps.
Yoghurt: Lesedi enjoys yoghurt because it’s easy to eat and it comes in different flavours. I would highly recommend exploring different brands and finding one that works for your family as some contains fruit bits which most kids love. You could also keep the yoghurt in the freezer overnight, if the next day is expected to be very hot. #MomTip: It also chills his lunch box – no ice block needed.
Smoothies: They are great for packing in extra nutrients – add milk and or plain yoghurt, fruit, vegetables and even superfoods like chia seeds.
Dips: If you add items like small carrots or cucumbers in the lunchbox, a dip can be an exciting element to add and they are simple to make at home. Mix 3 spoons of yoghurt with sour cream, 1 spoon of mayonnaise, a dash of garlic powder, salt and pepper. Works great for a chicken mayo sandwich too.
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