Lunchbox tips for kids

Sending a child off for the day with a healthy lunchbox can help to maintain their energy levels all day long.

Lunch Box Tips

Get your child involved – Try to encourage your child to make decisions about what they eat. For example, ask your child to choose either an apple or a mandarin to pack in their lunchbox. A child is also more likely to eat what they help prepare, so get them involved in simple tasks like making sandwiches.

Start with a good breakfast – Breakfast is an absolute must for school children, and preferably a healthy one. According to nutritionist Andrew Cate, breakfast is associated with a better attitude towards school, improved memory and learning, and prevention of hunger and subsequent over-eating during the day.

Be organised – Plan your child's weekly lunches in advance and add the ingredients to your shopping list. The more organised you are, the better the chances that your child's lunchbox will be stocked with healthy items, rather than relying on processed foods, or the school canteen.

Use quality carbohydrates - Include low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates such as multigrain sliced bread, wholemeal bread rolls, or brown pita bread. Wholegrain wraps are also available. You can also use a high fibre white bread if your child doesn't like bread with seeds in it.

Include lean protein - Use lean meats such as canned fish, roast beef, or shredded chicken breast. These are preferable to ham, salami, pastrami, corned beef or devon. Other protein alternatives include peanut butter, hommus and ricotta cheese, but use sparingly, as these are higher in fat.

Sneak in vegetables – Try to add lettuce, cucumber, tomato or roasted vegetables such as capsicum, eggplant, zucchini or red onion onto sandwiches. Vegetables on sandwiches add nutrients and fullness, with minimal kilojoules.

Don't spread the fat - Try to avoid serving butter or margarine on sandwiches. There are a number of fat-free spreads and condiments that you can use to add flavour and moisture without the fat and kilojoules.

Stay fresh - Keep your child's lunch fresh by wrapping sandwiches in plastic wrap or snap-lock plastic bags. Keep it cool and free of bacteria by freezing drinks such as low-fat UHT milks, watered down juice or water and use the frozen drink bottle as an ice brick in their lunch box.

Limit the liquid lolly drinks – Try to provide fluids in the form of water or skim milk, and avoid soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices or cordial. Unless your child is lean and very active, they don't need the sugar-loaded empty kilojoules.

Snack on fruit – Fruit is sweet and tasty, and a much healthier alternative to potato crisps, biscuits, chocolate and lollies. Offer fruits that are easy to eat such as mandarins, grapes, cherries, apples and pears, or cut and wrap fruit such as oranges, mango, kiwi fruit and pineapple.