“With different rules for different schools about what is allowed and what isn’t allowed in your child’s lunch box, providing a nutrient dense lunch while meeting the energy needs of a growing child does require a little thought. With these tips and product recommendations, you should be able to make a healthy lunch box that, not only meets the standards in place, but will also be eaten and enjoyed by your child.”
Nicola Selwood, Waitrose nutritionist
8 top tips for a healthy lunch box from the Waitrose nutritionists
Aim for at least 1 of your child’s 5 a day
As a guide, a child’s portion is the amount of fruit or vegetable they can fit in their hand. Dried fruit counts too, such as raisins, but try not to include dried fruit too often as it can stick to teeth. Perfect for the lunchbox are bananas, sliced grapes, satsumas and clementines, apples & pears, carrot sticks, cucumber and red pepper slices. If your
child leaves their fruit and vegetables each day you could try an alternative such as
a fruit smoothie or a dried fruit snack or
why not try cutting melon into various
shapes to tempt them.
Have a daily protein source
Protein is important for your child’s growth. Meat, fish, eggs and beans are great protein sources that can easily be incorporated into your child’s lunch box. Sliced chicken, egg mayonnaise or tuna are great sandwich fillers and sliced hard boiled eggs are a great source of protein which travel well in a lunch box. If you need a change from sandwiches, why not try adding mixed beans and tuna to a pasta salad.
Include a starchy food every day
Starchy foods provide energy and fibre and include bread, pasta, rice, cereals. Try to pick wholegrain varieties where possible to increase your child’s fibre intake. If your child isn’t keen on the wholegrain versions of bread, pasta and rice then try half ‘n’ half. Great examples are ‘best of both’ bread, mixing half white, half wholegrain for pasta and rice, or mixing high fibre cereals into regular cereals. As this food group usually makes up the biggest part of lunch, it’s important to vary it. Think about a wholemeal wrap one day, pasta salad the next or how about a bagel half or some sliced wholemeal pitta bread?
Add a daily portion of dairy to your
child’s lunch box
Dairy foods provide an excellent source of calcium which is important for your child’s growing bones. Milk is the top choice to
have as a drink for lunch, but yogurts and cheese sticks are great additions to your child’s lunch box or include cheese as the sandwich filling or low fat cream cheese as a dip for vegetable sticks. If you choose dairy alternatives such as soya milk or yogurt, pick varieties which are fortified with calcium. Other non dairy sources of calcium include dried fruits, particularly figs and apricots.
Try to encourage your child to end their
lunch with a piece of cheese as this can
help protect teeth from acid erosion.
Try to include oily fish now and again
Oily fish is a great source of Omega 3 fats. Salmon and mackerel make great sandwich fillers or as an accompaniment to pasta or rice. If your child refuses to eat oily fish (most do!) then you could try Waitrose Omega 3 chicken or Intelligent eggs as both these products provide comparable amounts of Omega 3 to oily fish. And don’t worry if you can’t get Omega 3 sources into your child’s lunch, just remember to include it in a meal at home or consider a supplement as children’s versions are available.
Pick healthier snacks over crisps
Some schools have a ban on crisps so it’s good to know there are some tasty alternatives available. Healthier products include breadsticks, crackers, rice cakes and vegetable sticks with houmous to name but
a few. If your school does allow crisps, then opt for reduced salt versions or try unsalted.
You can even get lentil crisps and baked vegetable crisps for a healthier crunch. Savoury mixed seeds are a great alternative, but do check your school’s allergen policy as some mixes contain sesame seeds.
Keep sausage rolls and pies as an occasional treat
These products are often high in saturated
fat so need to be kept to a minimum rather than a regular lunch box item. If you want
to include them in your child’s lunch box,
opt for the mini versions.
Confectionery & chocolate aren’t
Cakes & biscuits are often allowed but
it’s a good idea to opt for the healthier
ones, such as reduced sugar biscuits or
cakes and keep the portions on the small side.
Children are sure to
love these lunch ideas. Mini pittas with cheese and egg salad, sliced chicken with peppers
and tortilla stars, or
pasta salad with pesto and broccoli. Don't
forget snacks such
as fruit, popcorn or carrot sticks, and your lunch box is complete. Which lunch would
your little one like?