Involving children in planning and preparing their own lunchboxes gives them the opportunity to learn about healthy eating, and also gives them a chance to make autonomous decisions about what they will be eating during the day.
Some tips to help get your kids involved include:
- Talk to your children about what they would like to have in their lunchbox. Discuss healthier food and drink choices and decide what will be in the lunchbox together.
- Write a shopping list together. Take your children shopping with you and let them choose foods and drinks from the shopping list.
- Encourage your children help prepare their lunchboxes. Older children may be able to prepare most of their lunch themselves, and younger children can help with making sandwiches or cutting up soft fruit. It is a good idea to prepare lunchboxes the evening before to allow children to participate.
Try planning a healthy lunch box to start the school year. Talk to your children and discuss what they would be happy to have included.
The six key parts to a healthy lunchbox include:
- fresh fruit
- fresh crunchy vegetables
- milk, yoghurt or cheese (you can use reduced-fat options for children over the age of two years). For children who cannot tolerate milk products, offer appropriate alternatives like calcium fortified soy or rice drink or soy yoghurt
- a meat or meat alternative food like some lean meat (e.g. chicken strips), hard-boiled egg or peanut butter. If your school has a nut-free policy, peanut butter and other nuts should not be included in your child’s lunchbox
- a grain or cereal food like bread, a roll, flat bread, fruit bread or crackers (wholegrain or wholemeal choices are best)
- tap water.
Tips for healthy lunchboxes include:
- Cut up large pieces of fruit and put them in a container – this makes it easier to eat, especially if your child has wobbly teeth or if they have less time to eat than they are used to. Send a damp face washer to help with extra juicy fruit.
- Consider giving half a sandwich or roll for morning recess, as this is an easy way to get a healthy fill.
- In the hot weather, send frozen milk, yoghurt or water, or even frozen orange segments. This makes a great refreshing snack and helps to keep the lunch box cool.
- Go for colour and crunch in the lunch box by offering a variety of colourful vegetables and fruit.
Food is usually stored in lunchboxes for several hours and it is important to keep the lunchbox cool so that the food stays fresh. Some tips to help keep lunchboxes
- Choose an insulated lunch box or one with a freezer pack.
- Pack a wrapped frozen water bottle or freezer brick next to foods that should be kept cold (for example cheeses, yoghurts, meats and salads).
- Perishable foods such as dairy products, eggs and sliced meats should be kept cool, and eaten within about four hours of preparation. Don’t pack these foods if just cooked. First cool in the refrigerator overnight.
- If making lunches ahead of time, keep them in the fridge until leaving for school or freeze them in advance.
- If you include leftover meals such as meats, pasta and rice dishes, make sure you pack a frozen ice block in the lunch box.
- Ask children to keep packed lunches in their school bag and to keep their bag out of direct sunlight and away from heat, ideally in a cool, dark place such as a locker.
. Artificially sweetened drinks should not be included in the lunchbox.