Time sure does fly when you are having fun! The holidays are over and it is back to school season. As a parent or a guardian, you have probably been busy for the past couple of weeks preparing all your kids' basic school supplies; from books, to fancy stationary and of course, the school uniform. Some of you may have even gotten them a really cool lunchbox with their favorite cartoon character to go with their matching bag pack and pencil case.
So, school has started and everything your child needs has been sorted. Books in bag pack, checked! Pencils, eraser, ruler, magic markers in pencil case, checked!
What about their lunchbox? Have you double checked that what goes into their lunchbox is actually nutritious and beneficial for their performance in school? With the gazillion food options with so many different health claims like ‘no added sugar’, ‘trans fat free’ or the coming of age one, ‘vegan’ - it can definitely get very daunting selecting the right food to include into your child’s lunchbox.
How to pack a healthy lunchbox that your child will actually enjoy eating?
1. Always include fruit
When you watch TV, especially an American TV show, and there is a typical scene in the school’s cafeteria, you will somehow usually see a red apple either on a student’s tray, inside their brown paper bag, or lunchbox. The age old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is still quite relevant till today. Having fruit on a daily basis doesn’t just help boost your child’s immune system with all the various types of vitamins and minerals fruit have to offer, but can also increase their daily intake of fiber, which would support their bowel movements. You can include easy to pack fruits such as bananas, apples, pears, guava, berries and oranges.
2. Limit junk food
As an educator and also a nutritionist, I sometimes cannot help but notice the contents of my student’s lunch boxes. When they are given some time to have a snack, they will proudly open up their lunch box and whip out their snacks, which mostly consists of either cookies, chocolates, chips and mini cakes. There will occasionally be two kids out of the class of ten who will have a banana or a handful of grapes. It is no surprise as majority of children enjoy junk food and it is okay to allow them to enjoy these little treats as long as they consume them in moderation. By limiting junk food in their lunchbox, you are also limiting their sodium and sugar intake, two ingredients commonly found in abundance in junk food. Having too much sodium can cause dehydration and over consumption of sugar is linked to obesity. Junk food is also usually energy dense, which means it is high in calories and low in nutrients, providing little to zero benefits to their health.
3. Create a theme
Having a theme for your child’s lunchbox can make healthy eating a lot more fun! Let’s say your child is obsessed with colors and rainbows, you could jazz up their lunch box by including different colored fruits and veggies to resemble a healthy, edible rainbow. Get
cookie cutters to create different shapes for sandwiches. Rice can also be molded to resemble hearts, flowers, stars or to make snowmen if you are attempting a Christmas theme. The options are endless when it comes to themes. All you need is a little creativity. Just remember that when your child enjoys having their healthy lunchbox, they will also get to live a healthy lifestyle.
Lydia is a practicing Nutritionist and a member of the Nutrition Society Malaysia. She has helped many individuals from different health backgrounds in the past. She is currently working on a nutrition and health website www.thatswholesome.com and teaches kids biology during the day. In the meantime, log on to thats_wholesome on Instagram for more nutritional inspiration.