Back to school lunch box tips
Aside from Tasmanian students who start term one next Wednesday, this week will see most of Australia’s school kids heading back to school after six loooooong weeks on summer holidays. While parents and carers across the country are likely rejoicing at the return to routine, the idea of coming up with healthy lunchboxes ideas five mornings a week can be a little daunting for some after such a long break.
With the foods we send our kids to school with contributing to more than half of their daily intake of nutrients, it’s important to pack a balanced lunchbox to ensure they’re getting the sustenance they need to stay focused and energised throughout the day.
As we know, food is fuel for both the body and the mind. So, what your child eats at school plays a vital role in their learning ability, cognitive development, attention span, energy, and overall wellbeing. Busy, growing kids need a healthy lunchbox, so here are a few packing tips from Nutrition Australia:
- Make time to prepare. Have fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and yogurt, bread and crackers all bought in advance
- Shop wisely and save money. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables in season to ensure good quality and value for money
- Make your own snacks. For example snack packs from fresh ingredients which you can buy in bulk
- Look after the environment. Put sandwiches and other items in reusable containers. This uses less packaging and creates less rubbish
- Choose a variety of foods from the 5 food groups. These include: breads and cereals; fruit; vegetables; dairy; and Lean meats, fish, poultry, egg, nuts and legumes
- Include a bottle of water. No need for sweetened drinks such as juice, cordial or soft drink as these contain too much sugar which are not good for teeth. Non-water drinkers usually start drinking water with 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
- Keep food cool. In warm weather freeze a water bottle or put a small ice pack in the lunchbox. (Following are a few storage safety tips.)
Lunch box safety
In most cases, food is stored in lunchboxes for several hours – with many school bags kept outside school rooms – so conditions need to be healthy and hygienic, especially during summer. Here are a few food safety suggestions from Legendairy:
- Pack the school lunch in an insulated lunchbox and include a small freezer brick or freeze a flavoured milk and pop it into the lunchbox to keep food cool
- Frozen milk not only helps to keep the lunchbox cool but if packed with a spoon can be eaten as a slushie at lunchtime
- Follow hygienic food preparation methods. Before preparing your child’s lunch box, always wash your hands well with warm soapy water. Make sure all chopping boards and utensils are clean and dry.
- Prepare lunches the night before and store in the fridge or freezer
- Waxed paper can be a better option for wrapping than plastic. It’s easier for children to manage (and less polluting)
- Always follow the ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ dates and storage advice for dairy products
- Prevent sandwich fillings from drying out by leaving them uncut. Some fillings such as dips and cream cheese may stay fresher this way
- Freeze tubs of yogurt, by lunch or recess time they should be semi-thawed and are a delicious cool snack
Remember to involve your children with age-appropriate tasks, be it helping you choose healthy ingredients while you shop; or preparing and packing their own school lunchbox while you cook dinner.