Smart advice to help you pack lunches for healthy kids
THINKING of healthy ways in which to fill your child's lunch box everyday can be an exhausting and frustrating experience.
Healthy snacks are essential for active children.
They provide the fuel that helps them concentrate and learn.
Of course, in theory, we all know what should go in a lunch box but the most nutritious offering only works if your child actually eats it.
Encouraging children to help with their lunches is one way to encourage them to finish it, but if time is of the essence perhaps you'd be better served by getting them to make a list of the healthy foods they enjoy.
The most balanced lunch boxes contain fresh fruit, crunchy vegetables and a combination of protein, dairy and carbohydrates.
Opt for fruit in season as it is cheaper and tastier.
Cut up the fruit to make it more manageable or if you are including whole apples or bananas ensure they are on the smaller side.
Avoid dried fruit that can become sticky and is high in sugar as well as fruit bars or straps that have very little fibre and can get stuck to teeth.
Sticks of carrot, celery, cucumber and capsicum served with a separate dip like hummus or tzatziki can make lunch interesting.
If your child loves a drink of milk, you can freeze a small box overnight so it stays cold.
Yoghurts and cheeses need to be packed in an insulated lunch box or one that has a small freezer block in it.
Stay away from dairy desserts and flavoured milks which are high in sugar.
Different breads add interest. Choose from wholegrain or high fibre breads like rolls, pita bread, flat bread, bagels, foccacias, scones, pikelets, muffins, crumpets, crispbreads, rice cakes or corn thins.
Some kids would have Vegemite or peanut butter every day if you let them but it is important they have foods with varied nutritional content.
Try cheese, tuna, boiled eggs, sliced cold meats, chicken, baked beans or even falafels.
Dips like hummus, light cream cheese, tzatziki and avocado make good spreads.
Muffins, cakes and bars are only a good idea if you make them fresh
Limit the amount of sugar and fill them with additional fruit and vegetables.
Shop-bought cake treats should be kept for special occasions as should cereal and muesli bars that may appear healthy but are too high in sugar.
Water and milk should be your only choices - freeze them overnight, especially in summer so they can keep the lunch box cool too.
Make sure you chose a well insulated lunch box and wash it thoroughly every day.
Wash and dry salad vegetables well to avoid soggy sandwiches.
Don't forget a spoon when packing yoghurt or a fruit salad.
Children will often complain that other kids bring treats to school but stand firm and keep offering healthy alternatives in a variety of ways.
It can be quite disheartening when a lunch box that has been painstakingly packed returns home barely touched.
But there are many reasons, aside from being fussy, why children may not eat their lunch.
Children may not eat their fill because they are more interested in playing with their friends.
Cut their sandwiches in quarters and ensure there are also other bite-size alternatives so they can manage something quickly before running off.
Kids can become tired of eating the same old thing.
Change things around a couple times a week or for younger children try cutting their sandwich in different shapes.
Food may be nutritious but look unattractive or sometimes sandwich fillings can be too dry.
Make portions manageable and ensure kids can open any packaging.
Fruit is easier to eat in bite-size pieces or, in the case of citrus, if you remove the skin.
Your child may not like their lunch box or may find it difficult to open.