Back to School Lunch Box Ideas for an Epic School Year

Back to School Lunch Box Ideas for an Epic School Year

back to school lunchesBack to school, back to reality!

Ok, so the family may have overdone it on the festive feasts and New Year nibbles. The last morsels of Christmas pudding have been gobbled up and you’re already starting to think about the diet you may (or may not) stick to as a New Year resolution.

You’re probably also be thinking about everything you need to prepare for when school starts, but your child’s lunch box is usually the last thing on your mind.

With a little help, you can kick start the school year with a healthy lunch box snack plan that your kids will love.

Preparing lunch boxes can be a mission, especially if you’re pushed for time. These tips will help you plan ahead and get organised:

  • Montagu-Mothers-and-Children-BakingR1Avoid issuing tuck shop money regularly. Make it a rare treat. You can’t control what the tuck shop sells, but you can control when you give your kids tuck shop money and the kind of snacks you put in their lunchboxes.
  • Always check food packaging. Avoid snacks that are high in fats and select snacks that are unprocessed where possible. Most fruit juices marketed as “pure” fruit juice often contain added sugars. Default to water, and diluted fruit juices as a second choice.
  • Prepare school lunches the night before. Mornings are usually rushed and unpredictable. Lunch that is prepped the night before will reduce the chance of you issuing tuck shop money last minute.
  • Get your kids to drink more water. The sensation of thirst is often masked as hunger. So if your children have eaten recently and still tell you they’re hungry, first try getting them to drink water or diluted fruit juice. If they maintain that they are hungry, only give out healthy snacks like dried fruit, nuts or seeds in small portions.

Back to school lunch box ideas to help your kids start the year strong:

Packing a good lunch takes planning, but it’s worth the effort.

Tips for Packing a LunchIt’s important that your child’s lunch box includes a lot more than nutritionally-empty treats like chips, chocolates and refined foods. Their lunch boxes should be packed with wholesome snacks for growing bodies that need to get through a demanding day at school.

This is particularly important for kids between the ages of 6 and 12. They need a balanced, healthy diet to give them the right fuel to grow, boost their immune systems, metabolisms, cognitive development, and proper formation of bones, muscles and teeth.

A balanced lunch box should include a portion of each of these food groups:

Protein Carbohydrates Fats Fruit and veg Drinks
Ham slices Whole wheat bread Low fat cream cheese Carrot sticks Water
Lean biltong Whole wheat crackers Plain unsweetened yoghurt Cucumber sticks or slices Diluted freshly squeezed fruit juice
Fish (like tuna) Brown or whole wheat pasta Pale cheeses Rosa tomatoes Water with fresh fruit pieces
Steamed or roast chicken Noodles Cottage cheese Raisins Coconut water
Roast beef Potatoes A yoghurt drink Dried fruit Milk or almond milk
Raw nuts and seeds Unsalted popcorn Sugar and salt-free peanut butter Banana  
Eggs or legumes Sweet potato   Baby sweet corn  
Hummus     Fresh apple wedges  

 

These lunch box combinations include a good variety of healthy snacks that your kids will enjoy:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Whole wheat pita + cream cheese + ham + raisins Biltong + baby carrots + tomatoes + whole wheat crackers Pasta + tuna + cucumber + cheese straws + dried fruit Yoghurt + fresh banana + leftover chicken + raw cashews/almonds Dried fruit + cheese & ham/beef sandwich + cucumber + carrot sticks

Why dried fruit?

c61b2d39fd4f43938620e93e603ee080Dried fruit is known to have good health properties:

  • They are a source of unsaturated fatty acids
  • They are naturally high in fibre to aid digestion
  • They contain minerals and vitamins, which are involved in regulating blood glucose levels

The Bio Med Central Nutrition Journal recently published a study that found that diets which predominantly feature dried fruit and nuts reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

This is because dried fruit, eaten in controlled portions, helps to regulate blood glucose levels and prevent weight gain, which helps to reduce insulin resistance. With child obesity on the rise in South Africa, it’s important that parents make sure that their children are eating healthy foods and snacks throughout the day.

Snack suggestions:

  • Mixed dried fruit pieces
  • Dried apple wedges or rings
  • Dried mango strips or pieces

Why nuts?

How to Blanch Your Own AlmondsRaw or roasted, nuts are delicious and packed with essential nutrients that support a healthy lifestyle.

The healthiest nuts contain two types of “good” fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats may help to lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol levels.

Like dried fruit, nuts are also known to have good health properties:

  • They are a source of unsaturated fatty acids
  • They are naturally high in fibre to aid digestion
  • They contain minerals and vitamins, which are in involved in regulating blood glucose levels

Snack suggestions:

Walnuts:     

  • High in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fat
  • Contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant that’s good for the immune system
  • Contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and acts as an antioxidant

Almonds

  • Excellent source of protein and healthy monounsaturated fats
  • Eaten with meals, may help to lower surges in your blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Increases your antioxidant levels that may help to fight damage from free radicals

Pecans

  • Contain high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin E
  • Rank highest in antioxidant content among all nuts
  • Contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin A, folic acid and magnesium

Cashews

  • Have a lower fat content than most nuts, and the fat they do contain is extremely healthy
  • Are a good source of magnesium, a nutrient that plays a crucial role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body
  • Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, regulates heart rhythm and blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, supports your immune system and keeps your bones strong

Macadamias

  • Contain 78% heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which is the highest of any oil, including olive oil
  • Help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, and may help to prevent coronary artery disease

Pack a lunch that packs a punch

A healthy lifestyle starts at home. While kids tend to be fussy when it comes to food, there are simple ways to encourage healthy lifestyle habits that your kids won’t fight you on. The most important elements for a healthy lunch box include:

  • Variety:                Use a variety of important food groups
  • Nutrition:            Choose nutrient-dense, minimally-processed foods, including fresh fruit and veg
  • Refreshment:    Include enough water for the day to quench your child’s thirst

Remember the 1, 2, 3 formula:

  1. Eat well
  2. Sleep well
  3. Stay active

Wishing you and your kids a fantastic, healthy school year!

#MakeItEpic

back to school lunches