Tips for Building a Healthy Lunchbox
There are several benefits to building a healthy lunchbox (and no it is not difficult!) from enjoying a variety of foods, controlling portion sizes, reducing food waste, and saving you time and money! So say goodbye to that mid-afternoon energy slump and hello to improved energy and concentration!
Types of foods to include in a healthy lunchbox
The formula is simple: fill half your lunchbox with colourful fruits or vegetables (aim for two to three different types), one-quarter with whole grains, and the remaining quarter with healthy proteins. Healthy fats and a small amount of dairy can round out the lunchbox, helping to promote fullness, support concentration and mood, as well as fuel an active, healthy lifestyle.
Specific food groups to include
Slow release (low GI) carbohydrates - help to balance blood sugar levels, providing a steady release of energy throughout the day. Choose wholemeal or wholegrain options where possible, but if you have fussy eaters, look for high fibre, low GI white bread options. Choose breads, wraps, rice, pasta, rolls, muffins, rice cakes, bagels, popcorn, crackers, and muesli bars.
Lean Protein – high protein foods are great fillings for sandwiches, pasta or rice salads. Avoid processed meats and instead choose boiled eggs, tuna, shredded chicken, tofu, seeds, or hummus.
Plant foods – include plenty of colour and always aim to include at least 2 different types of coloured veggies in your lunchbox, as sandwich fillers or on their own with dip. Pack easy to eat fresh fruit and remember to wash properly. Choose bananas, apples, pears, berries, watermelon, grapes, mandarins, dried fruit, celery, carrot, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, snow peas etc.
Healthy fats – Avocado is a great source of healthy fats, as well as tahini, sunflower seeds & pepitas, linseed and chia seeds. Simply incorporate them into baked goods like slices or muffins. Nuts are an excellent source of fat, but make sure you check school policy as most schools do not allow nuts due to severe allergies.
Lunchbox ideas to support concentration and energy
Make lunches fun
Introducing themes, as well as getting the kids involved can be great ways to bring some fun to lunches! Some suggestions include:
Meal themes - introduce a different theme each week.
Mexican - use beans and brown rice, whole grain tortilla chips, homemade guacamole or salsa made with diced tomatoes, avocado, and corriander.
Chinese - chicken and broccoli served with brown rice and low-sodium soy dipping sauce.
Italian - pizza made with whole grain pita or crackers, grape tomatoes, and bell peppers, mozzarella string cheese, chicken slices. Pasta dishes like spaghetti bolognese, lasagne etc.
My experience has shown that getting kids involved in the cooking helps to increase acceptance of new foods. So try getting the kids in the kitchen over the weekend and cook up some school snacks like muffins, slices, protein balls etc.
Time-saving lunchbox tips
Prep your lunchboxes the night before by cleaning and packing them with foods that will be ok overnight, like baked goods, popcorn, dried legumes, fresh fruit, storing in airtight containers.
Make large batches of foods that freeze i.e. muffins, sausage rolls, protein balls etc. that you can store in individual portions that can be popped in lunchboxes.
Double batch cooking to use leftovers for lunch the next day, stored in appropriate containers with ice packs or thermos.
Pre-prepare veggie sticks and cheese cubes that can be placed in the fridge and used throughout the week in lunchboxes.