Are you in charge of packing a healthy school lunch for your children every day of the week?   And are you at your wits’ end trying to strike a balance between healthy food options and your child’s picky eating habits?

Here are some ideas to make your life easier and to ensure that your children have good, wholesome food to take to school and to have in-between meals.

The basics


There are certain basic principles that you need to keep in mind:

    • It takes planning - you need to plan ahead so that you buy the correct foods for making snacks and lunchboxes

    • Resist the "easy" option to buy cold drinks, chips and chocolate bars - in the long run this is going to ruin your children’s health

    • Resist your children's demands and manipulations for high-fat snacks and fizzy cold drinks

    • There are a number of new children's supplements to give nutritional for growing bodies.. For fussy eaters, for kids with special nutritional needs or just to fill any potential nutritional gaps, try giving your child one a day.

    • Remember that children are different from adults - they have a much smaller stomach capacity, so they need regular snacks and some children have a much higher energy requirement because they're more active than adults

    • Remember that children are similar to adults - they also like interesting and tasty food that looks good enough to eat, but they may not appreciate very sophisticated foods

    • Lunchboxes may have to replace three to four meals a day - that breakfast that wasn't eaten, the mid-morning snack, lunch and the mid-afternoon snack - a whole menu in one box!

    • Packaging is important - buy a sturdy plastic container that's big enough to accommodate the food you want your child to take to school without getting squashed, and consider buying a small non-breakable vacuum flask for keeping cold foods and drinks cold, and hot foods and drinks hot

    • Eating a variety of foods gives children and adults the best chance of obtaining a balanced diet

    • Select foods from all the food groups every day:

        • Milk and dairy products;

        • Fruit and vegetables;

        • Breads and starches;

        • Protein foods like meat, fish, eggs and legumes; and

        • Fats and oils, including nuts.




Children need healthy foods and drinks to snack on or to take to school. Here are some suggestions:

Food

Cereals, breads and starches



    • Low-GI, wholewheat, brown or rye bread or buns, various healthy breads, crisp bread (rye or wheat)

    • Wholewheat muffins or muffins made with fresh fruit like banana, dried fruit like raisins/sultanas/dates, or nuts; cheese muffins

    • Muesli or bran based cereals

    • Rice cakes (buy various flavours)

    • Baked potato with a filling (keep warm in vacuum flask)

    • Potato salad (dilute mayonnaise with low-free yoghurt)

    • Cooked corn on the cob



Protein foods



    • Lean cold cuts (ham, beef, chicken)

    • Grilled chicken pieces (wings or drumsticks)

    • Cooked, chopped or minced meat or chicken/turkey

    • Homemade hamburger patties (use lean mince)

    • Boiled eggs

    • Canned fish such as tuna, salmon or sardines

    • Cooked, minced legumes, baked beans or tofu



Milk and dairy foods



    • Yoghurt (plain mixed with honey and nuts or fresh fruit, or read-made, flavoured, low-fat varieties)

    • Cottage cheese (flavour plain cottage cheese with tomato sauce, mashed banana or avocado, nuts or dried fruit, or buy ready-made flavoured cottage cheese - check the fat content and buy the low-free versions)

    • Cheeses (all types, use grated or cut into cubes)



Fruit and vegetables



    • Fresh fruit - apples, pears, oranges, plums, peaches, grapes, litchis, mango, pineapple or melon pieces, figs

    • Dried fruit and fruit rolls, dates

    • Carrot or celery sticks, baby tomatoes, cucumber wedges, lettuce

    • Vegetable muffins (grated carrots and zucchini can be added to a basic muffin mix)

    • Pumpkin fritters

    • Potato cakes



Fats and oils



    • Mono- or polyunsaturated margarine as a spread on breads, etc

    • Nuts, peanut butter

    • Avocado - mash and use instead of margarine



Flavourings


(Add taste, colour and variety to lunchboxes and snacks)

    • Chutney - try different varieties

    • Tomato sauce - tomatoes are a source of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects against cancer

    • Mild mustard or pickles

    • Gherkins

    • Olives

    • Vinegar

    • Lemon juice (add to mashed banana to prevent discolouration)



Drinks and liquid foods



    • Milk

    • Homemade milk shakes (puree fruit with low-fat milk, add honey and/or vanilla flavouring)

    • Drinking yoghurt

    • Soda water - flavoured, still or sparkling

    • Hot chocolate or cocoa made with skim milk (keep warm in vaccum flask during winter)

    • Soups (keep hot in a vacuum flask during winter)

    • Cold water and ice for sports meetings



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