What to pack in your child's lunch box will always been one of the more contentious parenting issues. But how do you know if you're getting the balance right?
Aussie dietician and mum Rebecca Gawthorne says giving kids healthy and varied lunches they will actually enjoy can be "extremely challenging."
"Optimising kids' health through nutrition is essential," she writes in a post to her blog.
"Children need adequate nutrition not only for healthy growth and development, but to maximise learning, energy, and concentration. Over six hours of thinking, running around and creating can be draining for little ones, so it is important that during breaks, children refuel with healthy and nutritious food"
According to Gawthorne, kids need a variety of foods from the following groups:
- Vegetables and legumes/beans: provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytonutrients to ensure that long-term health and immunity is maintained.
- Legumes, beans, lentils, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu: provides an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, particularly iron needed for concentration, and protein to build, maintain and repair body tissues, muscles and organs. Adequate sources of protein are vital for children as they progress through rapid growth and change.
- Grain (cereal) foods: aim to choose wholegrain varieties to sustain energy throughout the day and increase dietary fibre intake.
- Fruit: an excellent source vitamins and minerals, dietary fibre, and phytonutrients, to ensure that long-term health and immunity is maintained.
- Dairy and/or dairy alternatives: This food group provides excellent sources of calcium and protein, essential for building strong and healthy muscles and bones, whilst keeping kids feeling fuller for longer!
Gawthorne also shares the following tips for parents:
- Purchase a compartmentalised lunchbox to "make room for colour, variety and abundance".
- Take your kids on your shopping trips and get them involved in the kitchen. "By allowing your kids to pick and choose their favourite healthy foods to include in their lunches, this will maximise their chances of consuming something they love," she says.
- Don't pack the same thing. "Kids can easily get bored with the same foods day after day," Gawthorne advises. "Mix around different combinations of grains, veggies and fruits and be experimental! Facilitate your child's exploration and try incorporating different colours, shapes, sizes and textures within the lunch box to aid in sensory development.