As the first term back at school is upon us, mums nationwide will be divided, sighs of relief or cries of grief will overcome mothers everywhere. But there’s one thing that I think we can all agree on — we all want our kids to be healthy. The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) have shared with us a few of their top tips for ensuring that your child is getting the nutrients they need in their packed lunches to take on the day ahead.
- 1. Start with starch Load up on those starchy foods as a base for the rest of the box. Choices like wholegrain rice, wholemeal bread, brown pasta and skin-on potatoes are rich in fibre and release energy slowly throughout the afternoon. “Many children are getting well below the recommended intake of fibre,” says BNF, “which is important not only for digestive health but for helping to keep them healthy in later life.”
- 2. Five fruit ‘n’ veg Although it’s usually recommended to eat five pieces of fruit and veg in a day, while children are growing they need all the help they can get from our plant-based friends. Our bodies need essential vitamins and minerals – such as folate, vitamin C and potassium – especially while we’re young, as they’re crucial for healthy development. Try and squeeze some mushrooms, peas or sweetcorn in a pasta dish, and no sandwich should be salad-free. If your little squirt can’t stand munching leaves, hide some tomatoes or grated carrot between the bread!
- 3. Pack in plenty of protein It’s easy to fill a lunchbox with carbs in all shapes and sizes, and starchy foods are an integral part of the midday meal. However, forgetting to include protein-rich foods on a regular basis can damage prospects of growth, maintenance and repair of your little one’s body. It can often take a little more time to work out whether to source some protein from, especially while meal prepping at 7pm on a Sunday night, but trust us, it’s worth the extra thought! Some of out favourite protein-packed picks are beans, lentils, pulses, fish, eggs and meat. The BNF has suggested that these foods can either be used as sandwich fillings, such as a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich, or thrown into some cous cous or wholegrain rice dishes, such as mild vegetable and lentil curries, which can be made in less than 15 minutes! Our top tip is to try and wiggle in some fish, such as tuna or salmon, at least twice a week for a brilliant omega 3 boost.
- 4. Get hydration happy Of course on top of creating a colourful and diverse spread to whip out in the school canteen, you need to provide your child with lots of water. Try to avoid sugary drinks such as milkshakes or fizzy pop too often. Not only are they bad for your child, the added energy may not be conducive to the best concentration levels in afternoon lessons! The BNF has stressed the importance of packing a drink for your little one, as younger children may be more likely to get dehydrated than adults, due to the fact they have a higher proportion of body water and are also less heat tolerant.
- 5. Find that good fat We realise the importance of treating your children, but filling a lunchbox with Babybels, Wagon Wheels and Cheestrings to ensure they finish their food is only damaging their health in the long-run. Try mixing it up a bit by giving them some carrot sticks with a mini pot of hummous or guacemole. It’ll encourage them to eat more veg and they’ll be getting those good fats in alongside it. A Dairylea Cheese Triangle every once in a while is fine, but try and limit these kinds of down-in-one saturated fat-filled foods.
For more inspiration when it comes to nutritious meals, pop over to https://www.nutrition.org.uk/