Thinking of healthy and exciting packed lunch options can be a challenge that parents face day-to-day. If you choose to pack your child’s lunch, you may find our guide to healthy packed lunches helpful when incorporating healthier choices into your child’s diet.
According to NHS Choices, a balanced packed lunch should contain:
- Starchy carbohydrates (e.g. bread, rice, pasta or potatoes)
- Protein (e.g. meat, fish or eggs)
- Dairy (e.g. cheese or yogurt)
- Vegetables (e.g. salad, carrot and celery sticks)
- A portion of fruit (e.g. an apple or sliced grapes)
- A drink (e.g. water or a milk carton)
- Get your child to help prepare their packed lunch with you. Present them with a range of healthy choices and ask them which options they would like to include in their lunchbox. Children are more likely to eat food that they have picked themselves.
- Cutting out foods that are high in sugar is one of the biggest steps you can take to ensure that your child is consuming a healthier and more nutritious lunch. Swapping processed sugary treats for options such as dried fruit or yogurt is a huge step forward.
- If your child often leaves food untouched, why not make it a little more interesting? Try and incorporate more colourful, healthy items in your child’s lunchbox to peak their interest. Use cookie-cutters in a variety of shapes (such as stars) to make sandwiches a bit more exciting than usual. Children also love food that they can ‘play’ with – chop up some carrot, bell pepper and celery and provide dips such as hummus, cottage cheese or simple sour cream for them to dip their veggies in. The possibilities are endless! Never underestimate the power of novelty when trying to promote a healthy diet to children.
- Make sure to cater for your child’s portion requirements and provide ‘me-sized’ servings. There are guidelines regarding how many calories children should consume per day, however, these facts and figures can be quite confusing and do not help when trying to decide how much food should be packed in a child’s lunchbox. To help understand children’s portion sizes a bit better, make a fist and compare it to an adult’s. Not only are children’s fists, hands and feet smaller, their stomach is too. When providing food for your child’s lunchbox, ‘me-sized’ portions should be given.
- Watch out for packaging sizes. Many pre-packaged food and drinks are aimed at adults and for sharing. Do not automatically give all the food to your child – divide it out and save some for another day.
For more healthy lunchbox ideas/information, the following web pages have lots of useful material: