Healthy ideas for lunch boxes!

Preparing school lunch boxes can be challenging if you want to encourage your children to eat healthily!  But this doesn’t stop at children – healthy ideas for lunch boxes to take to your place of work can be just as hard!

We can all be fussy at times but children, in particular, can be the worst!  Foods that are high in fat and sugar are appealing as they are easy to eat and can be very tasty;  they can give us a bit of a buzz and make us feel good!  It is thought that these types of foods release the chemical, serotonin, which can give us feelings of pleasure!  Unfortunately though, these foods are not fulfilling and have little nutritional value!  They are usually full of other unhealthy additives such as salt, hydrogenated fats and preservatives, to name but a few.  Eating processed foods that are high in sugar and fat have been linked to obesity as well as serious diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

So let’s get creative and pack those lunches full of delicious tasting food that will leave your children (and you) feeling fuller for longer, satisfied and more healthy!

First of all, if preparing lunches for the kids, it is great to get them involved in making their packed lunch and choosing their own healthy options!  This will encourage them to eat their lunches!  You could also pack or make your own lunch at the same time including the same foods so you lead by example.  Involving the children will also help them to learn about the many different foods and what is healthy.

Make sure you include a variety of foods so that your child is getting a balanced diet!  Eating a rainbow is a good example; include many different colours of foods, as this will ensure a balanced intake of nutrients. We are not just talking fruit and vegetables here; include a combination of protein, carbohydrates and dairy foods. The Eatwell Guide is a good visual to learn more about food groups!   And don’t forget to include a drink too – water, natural fruit juice or milk are good healthy choices!  Try to avoid low or zero sugar carbonated drinks as these can have negative effects on your health due to the artificial additives.  Read more here

 

Make sure you get a good mix of foods!
  • Vegetables:  Carrot or vegetable sticks with humous dip are a great source of protein, fibre, iron and B vitamins! Carrots and vegetable sticks are also rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals!  Baby tomatoes are full of goodness, are sweet, easy to eat and delicious – great for lunch boxes!  Grated carrot, or cress, is good to sprinkle on a green salad or add to a wholemeal wrap with cream cheese and ham!   A wide necked flask can be filled with homemade vegetable soup – or mix it up with bacon or ham for some extra flavour! 
  • Fruit.  Always try to add a piece of fruit to your packed lunch!  Try to pick really fresh fruit as it will taste sweeter with a better texture – a good crunchy apple is always more appetising than a soft one!  Take a look at our Seasonality Table for when fruit is at its best!  Try mixing it up a bit, such as cheese and apple cubes!  It is better to leave the skin on your fruit (apart from fruit such as oranges and bananas of course!) as this will help with essential fibre intake!
  • Protein.  Peanut butter (especially without added sugar or salt) is packed with potassium, protein and fibre!  Why not try spreading it on rice cakes, pitta or wholemeal bread!  Hard boiled eggs are high in protein and low in calories – mix them up with some ham and bit of mayo for a delicious wholemeal sandwich filling!  Tuna, lean meats and tofu are also up there for protein and are easy sandwich fillers or added to a leafy salad!
  • Carbohydrate.  Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta, pastry and so on – refined carbs are bad for your sugar levels and are digested too quickly!  Opt for nutrient dense wholemeal carbs that will sustain energy levels and are a good source of fibre too. Nuts with their skin on such as almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts are also a good source of healthy carbs – mix these with some dried fruit for that added sweet kick and a good source of iron and antioxidants!
  • Dairy.  We all need calcium and vitamin D!  Dairy produce is packed full of these nutrients, amongst many others! Yogurts are great for packed lunches but be careful that they are not packed full of sugar!  Low or zero fat yogurts are often very high in calories!  Hard cheese (avoid processed cheese) can be grated into a salad, on pitta bread with tomatoes or maybe with some pickles!  Delicious!  Try some cottage cheese mixed with some pineapple or maybe some cucumber and chives – great as a dip or as a sandwich filler!
Keeping those lunches cool, healthy and appetising!

Finally, having made those delicious lunches make sure they don’t perish or become inedible!  Meat, tuna, eggs, dairy foods etc should all be eaten within 4 hours of preparation.  An insulated lunch box with a freezer pack is ideal if you can’t store your lunch in a fridge.  Remember even in the winter, a centrally heated room will soon warm up your lunch!  Try adding a frozen water bottle which will keep your food cool and will be good to sip at throughout the day!  If you cook food to be eaten cold, make sure you cool it down as quickly as possible and store in the fridge. For more info on hygienic food preparation, click here

 

Further reading

https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes/healthier-lunchboxes



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