School has started and it is time to start organising the ‘dreaded’ lunchbox. There is a lot of pressure from schools and social media to pack a healthy, wholesome lunch. Some schools are recommending only homemade food, no packaged food, no wrappers, no glad wrap or plastic, low or no allergen foods, plus being “healthy”. However, what does that look like, and how do you do it?
Find out if the school has a nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free or any specific allergen avoidance. You do not want to be 'that' parent or caregiver who causes a child to have a severe anaphylactic reaction from packing nuts or a peanut butter sandwich! If there is a school policy, tell your child and explain that it is a serious condition for the children affected, so they understand why they cannot have certain lunch box foods. Avoid allergens if required. Check out www.allergy.co.nz for more information.
This can be tricky as many busy parents are time-poor and simply do not have the time or energy to provide homemade foods. Some time saving tricks for homemade foods are:
Cook a patch of muffins, (muesli bars or biscuits) in the weekend and freeze them in a snaplock container, these become free flow, and will defrost by snack time
Cut up chunks of cheese from a block
Sandwiches– all types from bread, wraps, buns
If allowed some type of nut and dried fruit
Leftovers such as mini quiche, squares of bacon and egg pie, macaroni cheese
The above options have no packaging and it is a good idea to try to minimise any wrapped or pre-packaged food, as it is usually lower in nutritional quality and higher in preservatives and additives. Minimise the wrappers by purchasing large packets of crackers, biscuits, yoghurt (1 kg size), and cheese (1 kg blocks), then only provide a portion of the food in the lunch box (without wrapping). Purchase a lunch box that has dividers for foods, and containers for wet food with sealable lids, so that the wet and dry foods do not mix.
This will depend on what you perceive as healthy food, as this could be a vegan diet, low fat diet, or a low carbohydrate high fat diet. However, for children they will need foods that are high in nutritional quality and these are generally non-processed. Nutritious food examples are; boiled eggs, wholemeal sandwiches with a protein filling (such as ham, mashed egg, tuna, salmon, peanut butter, or cheese), fresh fruit, yoghurt, wholegrain crackers, and plain biscuits. For more information, consult a Registered Dietitian.
Encourage water as the main drink for school aged children; avoid sugary drinks, as these are high in calories and sugar, which can damage teeth and lead to unnecessary energy intake. Fill up drink bottles the night before and store in the fridge so they are cold for school.