Let’s face it – it all comes down to two things: love and food. Those are the basic essentials that as a parent you need to give your child to keep them alive. Love is a selfless act that requires no real planning – even if your kid sucker punches you in the solar plexus, minutes later, you’re right back in love. Food can be a bit more challenging. Feeding a child might not come as naturally as loving your child, but that doesn’t matter because regardless of the time, you can always bank on it somehow being only minutes before it’s food time again. When it comes to packed lunches, we can easily get stuck in a pattern: sandwich, crisps and jelly. But there are many things to consider when feeding tiny humans, like fibre, protein, blood sugar balancing and aiming to eat the rainbow, and those guidelines can easily apply to packing a healthy lunchbox.
Healthy eating patterns
Solving Einsteins Theory of Relativity can seem easier than getting your kid to eat healthily. Offer them chocolate ice cream, and they are quiet little angels, for at least as long as it takes for the sugar to hit the bloodstream. However, we pay the price for pumping our toddlers full of sugary treats. Whether it’s that inconvenient tantrum in the middle of the supermarket, after giving into the relentless requests for Haribos, which results in the ultimate sugar crash while you’re still shopping; or their habitual desire to eat only pudding for their meal. (Does your kid anticipate dessert only two bites into dinner? Yep, been there!)
Another consequence, that’s a bit more daunting than the toddler tantrum, but part of parenting in today’s quick, grab-and-go world, is the potential lifestyle or medical condition that can develop from eating an unbalanced diet of too much processed food that is full of refined sugar, salt, additives, E-numberes and preservatives. A multi-centric study was recently published to drive home the ill effects of moving away from healthy eating habits and opting for easy-to-use, widely accessible processed food. The study outlined that these regular eating habits are more likely to lead to auto-immune inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohns Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. This is one reason why I try to be uncompromising when it comes to how I feed my children. We have fun with food, and treats when appropriate, but never too much for the little ones because it can alter the tone of their palette, and alter the balance of their gut microbiota.
Packing a lunch requires time and planning. School lunches can be a godsend, especially for parents who work full time, and the only hot meal their kid might eat that day is the one served at school. However, some kids are fussy eaters, and their parents can’t rely on school lunches. Additionally, more parents are becoming skeptical of school lunches, due to their potential lack of nutritional value. I don’t think there is a parent out there who isn’t aware of how international star chef Jamie Oliver is galvanising the government to feed our children better, particularly in the school system.
I get many questions from parents about packed lunches, and how to keep it healthy and interesting. It can be challenging, but remember we are creatures of habit, so when packing lunches give kids food that they know and love, and most importantly give them food that is real. Instead of biscuits, pack some purple grapes or blueberries. A cheap and easy protein option is a boiled egg. Protein is so important for kids for many reasons, and one reason is to help keep their blood sugar balanced, which will help to keep their attention focussed. Also, make sure they get their veggies like corn, carrot or cucumber, which provides fibre and hydration. Even if it’s the same veg everyday, pack it, along with one they might not be too receptive to, like red bell pepper for example – eventually they might try it. And, truly, #truthbomb time, avoid concentrated juice at all costs – this will not serve your child in anyway – water is the best option.
Keep it healthy at lunch time, and they will thrive for the rest of the day. Kids need brain food, and biscuits, cobbler and crackers won’t do them any favours. Treats are fun for lunch, so it’s okay to include them occasionally, but sticking with natural yogurt and fruit as their dessert, is the best option. Here are some ideas for healthy packed lunches for kids.
Note: occasionally, I offer fun treats in their box to keep it exciting. Something as simple as a marshmallow makes them happy, and in addition to all of the other food they will be eating, it won’t create a big blood sugar surge.
Note: when buying salami, keep in mind the additives and preservatives and salt content. Kids love salami, but serve is only once in a while, unless you’re able to find good quality, organic, additive free types. This salami comes from a small farm in Italy.
Note: organic cheese is not essential. We don’t do dairy that often, but when I do, I like to buy it organically from farms who have pasture raised cows.
Note: corn is a great carbohydrate and fibre, so if you need a break from always packing a sandwich, corn is a great addition to a box to accompany a deli meat.
– mashed banana & egg pancakes
– egg & cheese muffins
– turkey, cheese, cucumber wraps
– smoked salmon & cream cheese rolls
– tuna wraps
– cheese sandwich
– hummus & tomato sandwich
– quinoa, lemon & olive oil
– boiled egg
– veggies: olives, pickles, cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, green beans, celery, frozen peas, corn, left over cooked broccoli
– fruit: tangerine, grapes, berries, kiwi, sliced avocado, plum tomatoes, half a banana in skin, raisins, dates, apricots
– extras: cheese, natural yogurt with a little honey, pretzels, popcorn, rice pudding, hummus, cream cheese, muffins, fruit rolls, pom-bear potato snack, leftover flour pancakes (maple syrup in mini-round compartment
Have fun and enjoy!