What should & shouldn’t be in your Kids Lunch Box

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To begin with, one should point out, that healthy lunches and snacks are crucial for children to improve the concentration and learning capabilities. But with all these attractive and tempting advertising campaigns of the fast food industry, fine-tuning, altering and implementing healthy eating guidelines is not an easy mission.

As a matter of fact, setting a good example with your own lunch is the best start. Encouraging children to be involved in their own lunch box preparation, and their choices about which food items to include is a vital step. Children should be rewarded when they choose healthy foods for the lunch box with sport activities and entertaining outdoor family activities, but one should refrain from rewarding them with chocolate and ice-cream!!

There are limited times for children to eat during the day, especially at school. Children may prefer to play with friends instead of eating. Therefore one should encourage children to sit and eat before heading out to play, or talk to the principles at school to make sure, that all children get a chance to eat enough healthy food before fun time starts.

A healthy children lunch box must contain the following 6 items:

Vegetables.

Fresh fruit.

Dairy food – cheese or yoghurt.

Protein food – slice of lean meat, hard-boiled egg or beans.

Starchy food – bread, roll, pita or flat bread, fruit bread or crackers.

Water.

Food suggestions:

There are endless food choices available for lunch boxes. It can sometimes be difficult to decide which foods are healthy choices.

VEGETABLES

Best choices

One should try vegetable sticks with dips, or a small container with mixed vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, celery, corn, beetroot, sprouts, capsicum, snow peas or cucumbers.

Foods best left out

Crisps are best left for parties.

FRUIT

Best choices

Fresh, or tinned fruit in natural juice, are everyday foods. Dried fruit is sticky and high in sugar, so should only be eaten occasionally or as part of a meal.

Foods best left out

Dried fruit bars and ‘straps’ are very high in sugar, low in fiber and stick to children’s teeth causing tooth decay.

DAIRY PRODUCTS

Best choices

Reduced fat cheese slices or cubes.

Yoghurt – natural or fruit yoghurt. One should endeavor freezing a tub of yoghurt and putting it in the child’s lunch box. By lunchtime it will have partially thawed and be ready to be ingested.

Foods best left out

‘Dairy desserts’ and flavored milks are high in sugar. Dairy products high in fat should also be left out.

Sandwiches

This item shall include a variety of bread and fillings, especially if children begin to lose interest in Sandwiches.

Best choices

One should choose one or more of the following items:

Salmon or tuna in spring water. One should try  mini cans of tuna with added flavors.

Reduced fat cheese or cheese spread.

Egg.

Falafel or lentil patties.

Sliced lean cold meats such as ham, turkey, chicken, lamb or beef with vegetables.

Baked beans or bean salad.

Grated carrot, lettuce or tomato.

Include grainy bread or rolls, flat bread, fruit loaf or buns, bagels, corn or rice cakes, Turkish bread, crispbread or pikelets.

Foods best left out

One should avoid chocolate spreads, jam and honey. Same goes for fatty meats such as salami.

Biscuits and dips

Best choices

One should opt for wholemeal or multigrain dry biscuits, crispbreads, or rice cakes with yoghurt, hummus or vegetable dips.

Foods best left out

‘Oven baked’ and plain savory biscuits are as high in salt and fat as chips.

Muffins and cakes

Healthy muffins and cakes should be prepared at home. One shall include fruit and vegetables such as sultanas, carrot, zucchini, banana and pumpkin.

Foods best left out

Donuts and cakes should only be offered occasionally instead of the lunch box.

Muesli and ‘breakfast’ bars

Almost all ‘bars’ are too high in sugar. Some high fiber cereal bars are better than chewy, high fat muesli type bars.

One should try to avoid chocolate bars and muesli bars in lunch boxes. These are expensive and stuck together with fats and sugar.

Best drinks

Water and milk are the best drinks for children. They can be frozen to help keep foods in the lunch box cool.

All sweet drinks e.g. fruit juice, juice drinks, cordials, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavored milk, flavored mineral waters and soft drinks are high in sugar and are not necessary. These drinks can increase the risk of tooth decay, are ‘filling’, represent empty calories and may take the place of healthier foods.

Tips for busy families

Foods should be simple and easy to prepare, ‘ready to eat’ and appetizing after several hours of storage in the lunch box.

Foods such as sandwiches can be prepared the night before or on the weekend, frozen then taken for each day’s lunch box. Suitable foods to freeze are: bread, cooked meat, cheese, baked beans or vegemite.

Food safety

In most cases food is stored in the child’s lunch box for several hours, in addition to the challenging temperature here in Egypt. Consequently the lunch box must to be kept cool.

One should choose an insulated lunch box or one with a freezer pack, or include a wrapped frozen water bottle to keep the lunch box cool.

Perishable foods such as dairy products, eggs and sliced meats should be kept cool, and eaten within about four hours of preparation. These items should not be packed if just cooked, and therefore kept cool in the refrigerator overnight.

If the lunch box should contain left over meals such as meats, pasta and rice dishes, one should ensure to pack a frozen iceblock into the lunch box.

If we want to raise future champions, then we have to carefully design and tailor their food intake, then only optimal food intake will ensure optimal mental and physical performance.

 

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