Healthy lunch tips for healthy kids

Let’s lift the lid on lunchboxes in time to kick off the school year with inspired day to day meals packed with healthy options to boost kids’ brainpower – keeping them healthier and happier.

Balancing the weekday lunchbox can be a difficult task when you’re living busy lives. However, given that one in four Queensland children are currently overweight or obese, it is important parents prioritise healthy lunch options.

After all, good nutrition is vital for growing bodies, and encouraging your kids to make healthy food choices is also about establishing lifelong habits that promote overall wellbeing.

Research shows there is a strong link between diet and better concentration, but less than six per cent of children are meeting the recommendation for daily serves of vegetables. Too often pre-packaged snacks are promoted as healthy choices but contain high levels of saturated fat, sugar, and salt. So, it’s important that the majority of lunchbox items are wholefoods from the five recommended food groups.

Snapshot of Australian Dietary Guidelines recommended for children 9yrs+:

  • Aim for two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables every day
  • One serve of fruit is a medium-sized apple or banana and a serve of vegetables could be half a cup of carrot sticks or a handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Try and have daily servings of grains (wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice), lean meats and alternatives (fish, eggs, legumes/beans, nuts and seeds) and dairy foods/their alternatives

Stuck for inspiration? Why not try packing a wholemeal egg and salad sandwich, carrot sticks and hummus, and a small container of natural Greek yoghurt with berries? Make sure to include a water bottle to keep kids hydrated and avoid sugary drinks such as cordials, sports drinks, fruit drinks and soft drinks. Parents are also encouraged to use the Health Star Rating Scheme when shopping to ensure any packaged goods placed in a lunchbox are the healthiest possible. The Health Star Rating Scheme features ratings from half a star up to five stars and includes nutritional information about saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and energy content in food products.

Tips for parents

How to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into lunchboxes:

  • Try sneaking grated vegetables like carrot and zucchini in wholemeal muffins
  • Make vegetable skewers with cucumber, cherry tomatoes and capsicum
  • Freeze fruit like grapes and cut up oranges for a yummy, refreshing snack

Food safety precautions for lunch preparation:

  • Keep lunchboxes cold – store them in the fridge until you leave home, include a frozen drink bottle and use an insulated lunchbox with an ice brick
  • Encourage children to keep the lunch box in their schoolbag and store it out of direct sunlight
  • Clean lunchbox regularly

Keeping lunchbox meals delicious and nutritious will help your kids to stay happy and healthy and can reduce risk of health complication now and into the future. Read up here for more on how a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing some cancers.