Tuesday 5 March 2019

How to pack healthy school lunches for your little ones

We all want our kids to live a healthy lifestyle, but how do you make sure they're eating and drinking the right things at school? Jane Rylands, Head of Marketing Communications at kitchen appliance manufacturer Belling, shares her top tips for packing a healthy school lunch for your little ones.

As we continue to understand more about the links between nutrition and long-term health, it's more important than ever to make sure your little ones are getting a well-rounded and balanced diet. One way of being in control of what they're eating throughout the day is to make a packed lunch for them. In this article I'm going to share my tips to help you create healthy and tasty packed lunches for your little ones.

Incorporate all food groups

The first step to creating the ultimate healthy packed lunch is to understand how much of each food group should be incorporated, but in a tasty and varied way. Below you will find the four main elements that make up a healthy packed lunch and how much of each you should aim to include.

Fruit and vegetables: Whether they're fresh, frozen, dried, or canned, fruit and veg provide us with vital vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, and many phytonutrients that are needed for normal bodily function. Ideally, fruit and veg should make up at least a third of your children's packed lunch.

Carbohydrates: Wholegrain sandwich bread, tortillas, wraps, as well as potatoes, pasta, rice, and noodles all contain carbohydrates, which provide slow release energy throughout the day and help your children to feel full. You should aim to make carbohydrates take up about a third of your children's packed lunch.

Dairy/dairy alternatives: Ingredients such as milk, cheese, yogurt, or their vegan alternatives, provide children with an excellent source of calcium, which is necessary to ensure they have strong and healthy bones. Dairy should make up around a sixth of your children's packed lunch, but it's generally a good idea to choose low fat options where possible.

Protein: Lean meats and fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, nuts, legumes, and beans all provide plenty of protein, which is responsible for building, maintaining, and repairing our bodies. Proteins should make up the final sixth of your children's packed lunch.

These rules aren't hard and fast, and you have a lot of scope to mix things up on a daily basis. But bear these portion sizes in mind and you'll be able to ensure your little ones are getting a fully balanced diet.

Get your kids involved

It's all well and good understanding the importance of food groups, but there's no point putting together something you think sounds nice if your kids don't feel the same way. Get them involved in the process and give them a range of healthy options to choose from each food group and let them have the final say. By getting them invested in it, it's more likely they'll actually eat everything they've been given.

Start by talking to your child about what nutritious foods they like and then think of creative ways you can get them in a packed lunch. You can empower them further by taking them shopping and decided what goes into the cart (as long as it's healthy!). You could even create a lunch packing station in your kitchen and spend some time there with your kids the night before to get lunch ready for school the next day.

Encourage hydration

Once you've managed to get the food side of things sorted, you need to follow through with healthy drinks. It’s recommended that school-aged kids drink 6–8 cups of water a day. This is particularly important in school, as even small levels of dehydration can lead to tiredness, headaches, and a lack of concentration.

To get your kids excited about drinking water, it's a good idea to let them choose their favourite water bottle and encourage them to drink it throughout the day at school. If your kids find the taste of water to be too boring for them, try adding a few pieces of frozen fruit to sweeten it up.

Food safety in lunch boxes

Your kids' lunches will likely be stored in their lunchboxes for several hours before they eat them, so they need to stay as cool as possible to decrease the spread of germs. The best option is to choose an insulated lunchbox, or even one with a freezer pack (or frozen water bottle), to keep the lunch box cool throughout the day. You can find a great range of fun and colourful lunchboxes and water bottles right here at Dotty Hippo.

Healthy packed lunches don't have to be boring! Follow this guide and you'll be able to create a range of options that both you and your kids will enjoy.