Healthy lunchboxes for healthy kids

18 January 2016

Healthy food gives young minds and bodies the fuel they need to learn and grow.

That’s the message, Children’s Health Queensland is urging parents and carers to remember when packing their childrens’ school lunchboxes this year.

Children’s Health Queensland Director of Dietetics and Food Services, Dr Robyn Littlewood said children cannot concentrate in school if they are hungry or have skipped breakfast.

“There is an abundance of medical and nutritional evidence proving that children and young people who eat nutritious meals every day and lead active lifestyles tend to excel.

“Healthy school lunches mean students are getting the nourishment they need to power their minds and bodies to learn. Good nutrition is also vital for growing bodies.

Dr Littlewood acknowledged that creating fresh and healthy lunches that didn’t end up at the bottom of school bags or the playground bin was a daily challenge for time-poor parents.

“We all lead busy lives, especially parents of school-aged children, and often it’s easier to resort to pre-packed and processed snacks as a way of saving time.

“Although they may seem convenient, and often claim to be healthy, processed foods can have significantly higher level of saturated fat, salt and sugar as well as being low in vital nutrients.

“A simple piece of fresh fruit, vegie sticks and a sandwich are still the best way to fill a lunchbox. Packets and processed foods are simply not necessary and not as good,” she said.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend children have up to two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables every day to maintain good health and physical development.

Daily servings from the grains (cereals, bread, pasta, rice etc.), protein (lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs) and dairy food groups (reduced fat milk, yoghurt, cheese or alternatives) are also advised.

Children should also be encouraged to drink plenty of water, instead of sugary drinks such as cordials, sports drinks, fruit drinks and soft drinks.

Dr Littlewood offered the following simple lunchbox ideas to help parents to make more nutritious choices for their children.

  • vegetable sticks like capsicum, celery, cucumber and carrot paired with a vegetable-based dip (such as guacamole, hummus, eggplant and salsa or cottage cheese)
  • a fresh colourful salad (cut to finger size for easy eating)
  • wraps (filled with lean meat such as diced chicken, turkey slices, reduced fat cheese or tinned fish or egg and plenty of salad vegetables)
  • sushi rolls or rice-paper rolls (with fresh fillings rather than tempura or fried options)
  • home-made muffins or slices with added fruit or vegetables
  • reduced-fat cubed cheese or cheese sticks
  • air-popped popcorn
  • pikelets – sweet or savoury are good
  • hard-boiled egg
  • a small tin of baked beans
  • a tub of yoghurt or custard or a carton of milk (choose reduced fat varieties)
  • ensure a full water bottle is packed in their school bags every day

Dr Littlewood also recommended taking the following food safety precautions when preparing lunches:

  • Ensure the food preparation area is clean. Wash hands, fruits, vegetables and utensils thoroughly before preparing lunches.
  • Keep lunchboxes cold – store them in the fridge until you leave home, include a frozen drink bottle and use an insulated lunch box with an ice brick.
  • When at school, keep lunchboxes as cool as possible e.g. keep school bags out of the sun.
  • Clean lunch boxes regularly.

For more information about healthy eating for children, see

http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n55f_children_brochure.pdf

For healthy recipe ideas, visit http://healthier.qld.gov.au

ENDS

Media contact: 3068 5608/ 3068 2158