Healthy lunchbox tips and swaps
As parents across Australia return to the daily task of school lunchbox packing, Nutrition Australia is aiming to inspire Aussie families to create school lunches that are both healthy and enjoyable. Healthy Lunchbox Week (February 6-12) is an initiative launched by Nutrition Australia to help families prepare healthy lunchboxes, providing ideas and recipes, nutritional info and advice on lunchbox food hygiene and safety.
Kids consume around 30 percent of their daily food intake at school. Most of this comes from the contents of their lunchbox. What children eat during their day at school plays a crucial role in their learning and development. When kids eat well, they behave better (a bonus for teachers). They’re also able to listen well and concentrate for longer.
7 steps to planning a healthy lunchbox
1. Plan ahead to ensure you’ve got plenty of healthy food at hand. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and yoghurt, bread and crackers in advance.
2. Shop wisely. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables in season to ensure good quality produce, better nutrition and better value for money.
3. Make your own snacks. For example, make up snack packs from fresh ingredients you can buy in bulk. Or check out these recipe ideas and lunchbox hacks.
4. Remember to look after the environment, too. Put sandwiches and other items in reusable containers. This uses less packaging and creates less rubbish.
5. Choose a variety of foods that encompass whole grains, fruits, vegies, dairy foods, lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes.
6. Include a bottle of water. There’s no need for sweetened drinks such as juice, cordial or soft drink. These contain too much sugar. Non-water drinkers usually start drinking water by following the example of other children. Freeze a small quantity each night and top up with cold water in the morning for a cool summer drink.
7. Keep food cool. Freeze a water bottle or put a small ice pack in the lunchbox.
Healthy lunchbox swaps
Try these simple swaps to ensure your kids are getting the best from their daily lunchbox.
1. Swap white bread and other refined grain products with wholegrain or high-fibre options.
2. Swap butter or margarine for avocado, hummus or plant-based dips or spreads.
3. Swap cordial, juice or sugary drinks with water, plain milk or milk alternative.
4. Swap potato chips with vegie sticks and hummus dip.
5. Swap sweet and savoury biscuits with plain popcorn or pikelets
6. Swap iced cakes, buns and muffins with homemade fruit loaf or muesli slices.
Don’t forget food safety
Nutritious food won’t benefit your kids if it’s not prepared and packed safely. The Food Safety Information Council offers these 7 tips about how to prepare a safe lunchbox:
1. When buying lunchboxes or insulated lunch bags, choose those that have room for a frozen water bottle or freezer block and are easy to clean and dry.
2. Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before preparing food, and ensure you wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
3. Always use clean utensils and a clean chopping board when preparing school lunches.
4. Make sure ready-to-eat lunchbox foods are always kept separated from raw foods in the refrigerator, particularly raw meats, chicken, eggs and seafood.
5. Keep the lunch cool in the fridge until you’re ready to leave home, then put an ice brick or frozen drink in the lunchbox or cooler bag to keep it cold until lunchtime.
6. During hot weather, consider providing safer lunchbox alternatives that can be safely stored at room temperature, such as hard or processed cheese, vegies or tuna in a can.
7. Discard any higher risk foods such as sushi, salads, meat, cut fruits, poultry, rice or eggs if your child brings them home uneaten.
To help you stay on top of healthy lunchboxes all year round, Nutrition Australia has compiled all of your need-to-know info and a selection of recipes into one handy guide. You can download your Healthy Lunchbox e-book here. You can also try these healthy sandwich ideas from the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council.