6 Healthy lunchbox essentials for 2018
It’s a new year and the perfect time to set new healthy habits, starting with getting our children to eat better and get fitter. As the young ones go back to school, lets teach them the wonderful habit of packing a healthy lunch box which will give them all the essential nutrients they need to learn and grow. Nearly 50% of South African children don’t take a lunch box to school, causing them to rely on the school tuck shop for food which is often only offers unhealthy foods and sugary drinks.
With nearly 1 in 4 South African children being overweight or obese, we need to encourage healthier eating and regular physical exercise. Since children spend a large part of their day at school, here we give you simple tips to build a healthy lunch box and fun ways to be physically active. Give the children achievable goals for a healthy life-style.
6 ESSENTIALS TO BUILD A HEALTHY LUNCH BOX
Pack a healthy, balanced lunch box that includes all the food groups, enough food to keep the tummies of growing bodies full and that is coupled with water for hydration, by incorporating these 6 essentials of a healthy lunch box.
- PROTEIN. Choose fresh, lean protein such as chicken breast fillets or kebabs, chickpea falafels, mini lean mince balls, boiled eggs, tinned fish, beans or lentils instead of processed meats such as viennas or polony, which are high in salt and ‘bad’ saturated fat.
- STARCHES. Choose starchy foods that are high in dietary fibre and nutrients such as whole-wheat bread, multigrain wraps, wholegrain crackers, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, sweet potato, or butternut.
- FRUIT & VEGGIES. To get in all those essential vitamins and minerals, make sure to load up on fruit and veggies, adding a variety of colours for a variety of different nutrients. Try carrot, cucumber, celery or bell pepper veggie sticks, sugar snap peas or cherry tomatoes to nibble on. Fill a sandwich or wrap with shredded lettuce, coleslaw, grated carrot, sliced tomato or cucumber.
- DAIRY. Help build healthy teeth and bones by including dairy such as low-fat milk or yoghurt, cottage cheese or a small block of hard cheese.
- SNACKS. Include healthy snack-time nibbles such as a small handful of plain unsalted nuts, air-popped popcorn, fresh or chopped fruit, low-fat yogurt, veggie sticks with dip such as hummus, guacamole, or cottage cheese. Visit our website for a variety of snack recipes including apple and cinnamon muffins, peanut butter slices or fruit and peanut butter dip.
- HYDRATE. Don’t forget to include cold water which is the best choice to hydrate busy bodies. Keep it cold by freezing overnight or adding a small ice pack to the lunchbox. Make water more exciting by adding fruit slices or mint leaves. Children do not need sugary drinks such as sports drinks, iced tea or fizzy drinks which provide empty kilojoules and may contribute to childhood obesity.
TIME-SAVER TIPS TO PREPARE A GREAT LUNCH
- Get planning – A yummy, healthy lunch box doesn’t magically appear in the fridge come Monday morning. It requires planning, so get the kids involved over the weekend and write a list of what they would like in their lunch boxes for the coming week, keeping dinner left-overs in mind and encouraging healthy, fresh choices. Planning for the week in advance and making sure the kitchen is stocked with these healthy foods will make packing lunchboxes in the week a lot easier by preventing decision fatigue and having to run to the shops mid-week.
- Grab and go – keep the kitchen stocked with ‘grab and go’ healthy foods for those unexpectedly rushed mornings. Think low-fat yogurt pots, mixed nuts or seeds, and fresh fruit.
- Pack enough – Make sure to pack enough to eat and drink to prevent hungry tummies wandering to the tuck shop, buying unhealthy foods such as chips, lollies or pies. Pack food for lunch plus snacks to enjoy in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon and of course something to sip on such as cold water or diluted 100% fruit juice.
- Pack the night before – Prepare lunch boxes the night before and keep them the fridge overnight, to make busy mornings easier.
- Use leftovers – When cooking dinner, make a bit extra and pack left-overs into lunch boxes for the next day. Pasta or rice dishes are great reheated or can be turned into a pasta/rice salad. Left-over chicken, beef or fish can be added to a sandwich or whole-wheat wrap with grated carrot, tomato, and a slice of cheese.
- Maximize on weekends – Use the extra time over weekends to cook in bulk and prep meals and snacks for the week ahead. Make a big pot of soup, curry or bolognaise and bake homemade snacks such as apple and banana muffins.
FUN AND ECONOMICAL WAYS TO ENCOURAGE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
- Encourage play in the playground at school – a school playground offers a safe space for children to run around and play games together. Maximize on this by encouraging children to play during break times.
- Encourage skipping, running and safe ball games – Children should aim for at least 60 minutes of exercise each day which includes active play. The goal of 60 minutes can easily be achieved when split between break times – 20 mins during 1st break, 20 mins in 2nd break and another 20 mins after school.
- Discourage use of technical gadgets – time spent being inactive by watching television, playing computer games or using a cellphone should be limited to no more than 1 or 2 hours per day.
- Encourage increase in physical activity, discourage competitiveness – Schools should offer the opportunity for all children to be physically active, despite their age or ability. Any type of physical activity is good including walking, dancing and skipping.
- Let the slogan be ‘play and freedom’ – Being physically active should be a positive and enjoyable experience for children, rather than an overly-competitive and stressful one. Reward and encourage children for being active in any way and offer the facilities and opportunities for them to do so.
Here’s to a healthy mind and healthy body for our young people in 2018!