Many studies have proven that children need to eat a nutritious breakfast in order to perform well at school, but what most parents don’t realise is that having a healthy, balanced lunch is just as important.
Children need a nutritious meal in the middle of the day to re-boost their concentration and give them the energy they need to power through the mid-afternoon slump and get the school day finished.
School Provided Food
Most schools regularly send home information about what food or meal plans are offered through the cafeteria. Look through the material with your children and plan on the days when your child will eat from the school’s menu, and what days he or she will take a packed lunch. If your child would like to purchase his or her lunch from a school vending machine, be sure to check that they stock healthy choices your child can choose from such as yoghurt, fresh fruit and water.
Providing a packed lunch for your child can be a fine balancing act. Parents who prepare their children’s lunches realise that they are playing an important role in their child’s diet, and overall health.
Studies have shown that children who are healthy and eat well balanced meals tend to out-perform those who do not, particularly in school. This means that it is important to ensure that each lunch is healthy and filling, providing an opportunity for your child to do their best at school.
A nutritionally balanced diet should contain a mixture of the following:
- A filling, starchy food such as bread, rice, pasta
- A food high in protein such as egg, meat or beans
- One or two serves of fruit or vegetables
- A low fat dairy item such as cheese of yoghurt
These items can be made fresh, or can even be made up from leftovers. Whatever you use, make sure you add variety – mot children do not enjoy eating the same things every day so play around with the following ideas and introduce them to some healthy new foods:
- Carrot or celery sticks with hummus
- Trail mixes
- Wholegrain pretzel sticks with herbed cream cheese
- Granola bars
- Fruit salad
- Cheese cubes
- Fruit and nut quinoa
- Beef jerky
- Tapioca pudding
- Fresh fruit and yoghurt
- A few small squares of dark chocolate
- Homemade sushi
- Roasted chickpeas
- Air popped popcorn
- Sugar snap peas and sour cream dip
- Fruit or vegetable kebabs
- Pickles with tzatziki dip
- Mini muffins
- English muffin pizzas
- Pasta salad
- Unsweetened apple sauce
- Hard boiled eggs
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Mini pancakes with honey
- Filled pita bread
- Sliced bell pepper and salsa
- Rice salad
- Meat roll ups
These simple, healthy ideas will boost your child for an active afternoon and will fuel their bodies to support their learning.
If you are providing a packed lunch, be sure to also keep these tips in mind:
- Always pack lunches the night before – that way you won’t be tempted to quickly add packets of processed foods because you are rushing.
- Ensure that your child’s lunch box or bag is clearly named in case it gets lost.
- Involve your kids in the lunch-making process. Having your child help you will help to teach them about making healthy choices and will increase the likelihood that they eat their lunch, since they helped put it together themselves.
- Think about what packaging you will use. Most schools now prefer ‘rubbish-free’ lunches which means using small reusable containers. Just make sure they can open them independently, and that they are secure and won’t leak.
- Don’t give into peer pressure. Children are masters at telling parents what the other children are having in their lunch. Only you know what is right for your child – go with your gut.
- Be creative! Kids love tiny portions, fun shapes and variety! Experiment with cookie cutters, toothpicks and make sure the lunchbox contains a variety of color to keep them interested.