Published: 29 January 2015
With the school year now underway, Tick dietitian Sarah Goonan discusses the importance of a healthy school lunch and offers handy tips for a nutritious lunchbox.
There are many things to think about when preparing school lunches - nutrition, taste, portion size, cost, safety and, of course, enjoyment. Among the morning madness and afterschool activities, it can be tricky coming up with ideas that tick all the boxes and keep kids interested. So, here are a few tips from the Tick team:
Eating a healthy lunch is important for growing children because it boosts their energy levels, improve concentration and provide the nutrients they need for growth and development. Organising a nutritious packed lunch doesn’t need to be complicated. Just remember to choose a variety of foods from each of the four food groups:
- Fruit and vegetables: Try an assortment of vege pieces (e.g. carrots, broccoli, capsicum), fresh sandwich fillings or a bright fruit salad. Using seasonal produce is a cost-efficient way to add colour and variety. Add an extra serving of fresh fruit or vegetables to your child’s lunchbox as part of February’s 5+ A Day Challenge.
- Breads and cereals: Choose whole grain breads and cereals. Grainy or wholemeal breads, wraps and crackers provide more fibre than white varieties, and help kids feel fuller for longer.
- Milk and milk products: Protein and calcium are essential for strong teeth and bones. Reduced-fat milk and milk products such as yoghurt, dairy food, cheese and plain UHT milk are ideal sources of these important nutrients.
- Lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds: These are high in protein and make an easy addition to any salad or sandwich. For protein-rich vegetarian options, try falafel or a Tick-approved peanut butter or hummus.
What about snacks? Go for healthy snacks like fresh or dried fruit, unsalted nuts or popcorn, or crackers and dip. For some children, a lunchbox is not complete without a sweet treat. If that’s your child, choose products or recipes that contain fruit and whole grains, like these banana and oat cookies.
Children need plenty of fluid to keep them hydrated. Water is the best option; save juice or flavoured milk for occasional treats. Try freezing the drink bottle overnight to help keep other food items chilled the next day. Not only will everything taste better, but it will also be safer to eat.
Take time to plan lunchboxes and encourage the kids to get involved. Whether it’s writing the shopping list, researching recipes or helping with food preparation, this is a great opportunity to teach children the importance of optimal nutrition.
The Tick programme makes it quick and easy to prepare healthier lunchboxes. Browse our latest Shopping Guide for all Tick- and Two-Tick approved products.