My toddler recently started attending playschool and we're required to send a packed lunchbox to school with him every day. I want to be able to to pack him exciting lunches that he'll want to eat, but want to keep it healthy and balanced too. I have no idea how to do this, and I don't want to get caught in the trap of sending him off with peanut butter sarmies and carrot sticks every day! What healthy options would you recommend I pack in his lunchbox?
Tammy Wolhuter (registered dietician) answers:
Being creative with your child’s lunchbox is important to keep him interested, while ensuring that you keep it healthy. You can also get your child involved in preparing his own lunchbox in order to teach him how to make healthy food choices. Don’t forget to praise him when healthy food choices are made.
A lunchbox container should be durable and insulated to keep the food fresh. Pack sandwiches, vegetables and fruit separately in foil or freezer bags to prevent the smell or fl avour of a fruit, such as a banana, mixing with the sandwich. Offer a variety in colour and texture.
Provide a nutritional balance by selecting a variety of the following food groups: fruit, vegetable, starch, protein and fat.
FRUIT FRESH is the best fruit option as it is more fi lling than fruit juice and even dried fruit. However, dried fruit is a great alternative to fresh fruit. Pack the fruit ready-to-eat, so that it is
easier and more inviting for your child.
Examples include: banana (makes a great sandwich topping with peanut butter), apple strips (with a little bit of lemon juice to prevent browning), naartjie pieces, sliced grapes, nectarine, watermelon pieces, pineapple slices, strawberries; mango strips, dried apple, pitted prunes.
FRUIT JUICE is lower in fi bre compared to fresh fruit and is often consumed in excess. Water is the preferred beverage, but if you would like to offer fruit juice, always dilute it with water and don’t offer it every day.
VEGETABLES Vegetables are colourful and can be enjoyed in different ways. Pack vegetable sticks (like sweet peppers, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, celery sticks spread with peanut butter) with low fat dips or pack vegetables in a small container.
STARCH Choose unrefined starches which are high in fibre, such as wholewheat, health or seeded breads, multigrain crackers, bran muffins and wholewheat pasta, instead of choosing white bread or breadrolls, pastries, chips or biscuits.
PROTEIN For sandwich fi llings, opt for lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken, fi sh (tuna, salmon or hake), or boiled egg. Steer clear from fatty cuts of meat, crumbed chicken or fish, chicken with skin, sausages, salami or fried meat as these are high in unwanted saturated fats. Also include a good source of calcium found in dairy, like cheese wedges, grated cheese, yoghurt or milk.
FAT For spreading on bread, choose unsaturated fats such as avocado, peanut butter, margarine (preferably olive oil based) or low fat mayonnaise.