School Lunches: No Kidding
You’ll rarely come across a child who doesn’t love the ring of the morning tea or lunch bell. A chance to roam around with friends, soak up a few rays of sun, to re-energize and excitedly pop open their lunch box of delicious goodness. These little moments are so vital for our children to nourish their bodies with foods that will support their energy levels and growth from a young age.
Our role as parents is to ensure this is the case. We all have our moments though and it’s not always easy to satisfy hungry growing kids with foods that are nutritionally balanced, easy to prepare, and most importantly from a kid’s perspective, actually ‘fun’ to eat. So, as parents, let’s wipe the chalk board (as we know it) clean and refresh our own education on having a balanced diet and start filling the lunch box with these ideas.
THE BALANCE BOX
So, what is the balance and how do we achieve it? More often than not it’s convenient to pack a lunch that sits in the predominantly carbohydrate driven box. Kids will generally eat it and it’s easy as parents to get our heads around the sandwich, crackers, muesli bars and fruit in the morning amidst the rush of moving the family out of the door. Whole grain, good quality, low GI carbohydrates will most definitely energize our children and but let’s not forget to integrate other wonderful food sources to nourish their brains and bodies.
Proteins, be it chicken, fish, meat, eggs, or vegetarian sources such as seeds, quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, beans or other lovely legumes, are an absolute essential in any lunch. In fact, we could all benefit from having a little more protein in all our meals and snacks, for it is protein, which satiates hunger and balances blood sugar levels by evening out the glycaemic load of foods. Zinc, an essential nutrient for cellular growth and repair, is also found in many of these protein sources. Young bodies need more of this support than that which they get from many commercially manufactured foods these days.
We can find healthy fats in avocado, sesame seeds and tahini, sunflower seeds, pepitas, salmon, trout, eggs and organic full fat dairy. These are all a beautiful and important inclusion to a balanced lunch box. These fats have a number of benefits, but one that truly stands out is the support of brain development and function. We want our kids to learn and absorb as much as possible in their school day, and we can support this by nourishing them with the right choice of fats in their diet.
REFRESH THE MENU
The greatest and most simple piece of advice I offer to parents who come to my nutrition practice with their kids is to do your best to keep things fun and creative. When it comes to food, try not to get caught sending kids off to school with the same lunches everyday. Sure, there will be fussy eaters or those who may be a little more restricted in which foods they can eat, due to allergies and the like. But, if we can be really diverse with the foods we give to our children, we offer them far greater nutrition and health benefits for the crucial stages of their growth and development.
You don’t have to be the creative brain on your own either. Talk to your kids and other parents; create a little online forum if it helps, and publish ideas for school snacks and meals. Support the families and friends around you, because when we share, we offer more to our children and keep them excited by food for life.
Some simple and easy ideas to refresh the lunch box might be…
- Mini frittatas with ricotta, tomatoes, sweet potato and spinach
- Corn fritters with avocado and veggie sticks
- Whole Eggie Crunch Wraps (recipe on Food for Kids)
- Raw veggie sticks with hummus or tzatiki
- Raw sunflower and pepita seeds with organic dried apricots
- Sweet potato and pepita bites (recipe will be posted soon!)
Ultimately, the guidance we provide to our young ones now sets them up for life. So let’s do it with good nutrition, creativity and plenty of love!
For more from Jaqueline Alwill and her wonderful approach to Nutrition, Health, Food & Balance please contact The Brown Paper Bag www.thebrownpaperbag.com.au