HEALTHY LUNCHBOXES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
The holidays have sadly come to an abrupt end and its back-to-school. When it comes to lunchboxes, we often need a little extra inspiration. I’m not sure about you, but with all that life brings, my creativity in the lunchbox department sometimes takes a back seat. This article will help bring the jazz back into your lunchboxes whilst ensuring they are healthy options.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HEALTHY EATING FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Eating healthy, balanced meals has countless benefits. It helps with weight management, keeping blood glucose levels stable, it provides sustained energy levels and better concentration which lead to increased productivity. It can help decrease the risk of diseases, provides a stronger immune response and helps control hormones as well as better one’s mood1-3. So, packing the correct foods can help your kids perform better academically and on the field. It can help keep hard-working dads focused at work and it can help mom have enough energy to juggle all her tasks.
- Pack a healthy lunchbox
The key for this to work is planning. The quote by Benjamin Franklin comes to mind: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
- Get equipped: Get the right sized lunchbox containers for meals and snacks. Get a small cooler box (foil lined and practical) and a slim icepack. Get a quality water bottle to ensure your family is drinking enough water throughout the day. They should be aiming for 8 glasses per day. Infuse their water with lemon, mint, cucumber, ginger or fresh fruit pieces if they have difficulty drinking enough water.
- Plan, plan, plan: Plan meals for the week. Make enough food so that you can pack leftovers for them the following day. This will not only save you money but will make things a lot easier for yourself. If cooking during the week is a big no-no then bulk-cook over the weekend and store in the fridge / freezer.
- Go shopping: Create a shopping list of all the ingredients & snacks you’ll need to buy to make lunch box packing a breeze. Prepack snacks into little bags or lunch boxes. Prepacking snacks will help save time and help decrease food wastage.
- Pack enough: This will help decrease dad or the kid’s temptation to buy something. They should be eating a small meal every 2-3 hours (mid-morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack). Encourage them to drink lots of water.
- The Importance of all the food groups
As parents we want the best for our families, therefore knowing why we pack certain things is of utmost importance. It is also imperative to note that it doesn’t have to be boring to be healthy. Let’s take a closer look at the different food groups.
- Carbohydrates: this food group is our body’s main energy source, providing energy for your children to concentrate at school as well as to excel in sports. Choosing low GI options which provides us with slow sustained energy which means dad will be more productive at work too2. Low GI options also keep us fuller for longer, which is great for moms on-the go. When looking at carbohydrates we also want to choose options that are higher in fibre, these also help keep us fuller for longer but more importantly fibre helps promote digestive health. Not sure what to choose? Make the easy swop from white options to brown for example white bread, pasta and rice can be swopped for brown options. FUTURELIFE® High Protein Bread Range (Brown Bread, Oats & Honey Flavoured Brown Bread and Ancient Grain Brown Bread) are all excellent low GI options that are high in dietary fibre.
- Protein: is essential for many functions within the body but most notably it plays a role in muscle repair and growth3. We get 2 sources of protein namely plant and animal sources. It is important to be aware that while animal proteins may be high quality, they are often high fat. Lower fat options should be prioritised. Here are a few options below:
- Animal protein: Skinless chicken or turkey, tuna, hake, trout, salmon, pork without fat rind, fresh ham, red meat (visible fat cut off before cooking), lean mince, dairy and eggs.
- Plant protein: Soy, beans, split peas, chickpeas and lentils.
- Fat: fat plays an important role in the absorption and transportation of fat-soluble vitamins, protection of organs and helps with brain development3. Healthy fats are also good for our hair, skin and nails. It is however important to note that it is a very energy dense macronutrient and therefore excessive intake can lead to weight gain. While fat requirements differ for different age groups, the major fat sources in the diet should be unsaturated, coming mostly from plant sources. These are considered our “healthy fats” because as they play an important role in heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids also provide many health promoting benefits and are important for maintaining your child's overall health. Omega-3s are especially beneficial for children’s brain health. They may also aid sleep quality and reduce symptoms of ADHD and asthma4.
- Vitamins and minerals: these fall under a group called micronutrients meaning the body requires these in small amounts daily for many necessary functions3. Pay special attention to fruit and vegetable intake, making sure that you eat 5 or more servings per day. Fruit and vegetables are rich sources of micronutrients. Ensure that you vary your choices of fruit and vegetables, choosing different colour options as far as possible as different colours usually play different roles in your body.
- What is in a healthy lunchbox?
Try pack something from each of the food-groups in the right portions; the plate model may help with portion control if you are unsure.
- Fruit: fresh apples, banana, strawberries, grapes, naartjies, nectarines, berries, cubed watermelon
- Vegetables: carrot/cucumber/bell pepper/ celery sticks, salad veggies (cherry tomatoes, lettuce, snap peas etc.)
- Grains or Starches: wraps, whole-wheat or low GI bread, whole-wheat wraps/pita’s, brown rice, couscous, brown pasta, quinoa etc.
- Protein: grilled chicken strips, cheese, boiled egg, tuna, steak strips, feta, lean mince, fish cakes, cottage cheese.
- Dairy: low fat yogurt, milk, drinking yogurt.
- Fat: homemade salad dressing with a healthy oil such as olive or avocado oil, nuts, seeds, lite mayonnaise, hummus.
- Healthy snack options
Packing healthy snacks is important to maintain energy levels and prevent overeating later in the day. This will also help decrease your child’s urge to buy something unhealthy from the tuckshop.
Here are a few healthy snack options:
- Fruit: Fresh, whole fruit or in tubs, dried fruit, fruit rolls (no added sugar)
- Nuts: roasted, unsalted about 30g, trail mixes
- Lean biltong 30-50g, air popped popcorn
- Whole-wheat crackers with cottage cheese, sugar free peanut butter, smashed avocado
- Dairy: low fat or fat free milk, yoghurt (100g)
- Veggies dipped in hummus, cottage cheese
- FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Bar, FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN LITE Bar, FUTURELIFE® Crunch Protein Bar
- Bran/carrot and pecan/ savory muffin
An example of a healthy lunchbox with an item from each food group and including snacks would look something like this:
- Lunch: 2 slices low GI Brown Bread (grains/starches) with grilled chicken (grotein) and Lite Mayo (fat), with tomato, lettuce and peppadew (vegetables)
- Snacks: 100g low fat yoghurt tub, (dairy) Small plum, small banana (fruit – different colours), 30g unsalted, roasted almonds (healthy fats)
Packing healthy lunchboxes should no longer be a headache for parents. Remember to plan ahead, prepack snacks over the weekend and buy healthy options to keep things interesting. Don’t be scared to get creative, the family will love it.
- Butler, N. (2018, June 26). What are the benefits of Healthy Eating. Retrieved from Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322268.php
- Glycemic Index Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from GIFSA: http://www.gifoundation.com/
- Mahan, L., Escott-Stump, S., & Raymond, J. (2012). Krause's Food & the Nutrition Care Process 13th Edition. Elsivier.
- Link, R. (2019, October 9). Should kids take Omega-3 Supplements. Retrieved from Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-for-kids