What should a healthy packed lunch include?
Having spent the last 7 years making up daily packed lunches for my two boys I have certainly come across a few challenges and frustrations along the way! Fussy eating habits and a constant desire for high fat & sugar treats have been my main challenges.
Healthy packed lunches don’t have to be dull and hopefully you will find some new ideas to try in your children’s lunch boxes. Just include one item from each of the four main food groups below, pop in a drink and you’re done!
- A starchy food e.g. All varieties of bread, pitta bread, crackers, crisp breads, baguettes, tortilla wraps, bagels, chapattis, pasta or cous cous.
These are a great source of energy and also provide calcium, iron & B vitamins. If you’re cooking pasta, cous cous etc… for your main meal at night try making a little extra and use it the next day cold for a packed lunch.
- A meat, fish or alternative (e.g. egg, cheese, nuts, beans & pulses).
These are a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals, particularly iron & zinc. Oily fish such as tinned sardines, mackerel & salmon also provide beneficial omega 3 fatty acids.
- A vegetable & fruit portion
These are packed full of vitamins and minerals plus they also help to increase fibre in the diet. A packed lunch can easily provide 2-3 portions of our 5 a day.
- A dairy food e.g. cheese, yoghurt, fromais frais or milk to drink.
Milk & dairy products are great sources of protein, calcium and vitamin A. Processed cheese foods aimed at kids can contain high levels of salt, consider cream cheese, Edam slices or a matchbox size piece of hard cheese as alternatives.
What drinks can I pack in the lunch?
- Plain water (still or sparkling) and milk are ideal choices.
Although pure fruit drinks are a healthy choice for a packed lunch they are best limited to one glass per day. They contain natural sugars which, like other drinks, such as squash and fizzy pop can damage teeth. Children also become accustomed to very sweet tastes with these drinks and can end up consuming lots of extra calories – but no other nutrients – !
Have you any ideas on fruit and vegetables…my child won’t eat any?
If your child often refuses to try new foods it is important to keep persevering as their taste buds will change over time and your child may need to try a new food ten or even twenty times before they start to like the taste!
If your child doesn’t like fruit &/or veg try starting them off with very small portions in their packed lunch then give them lots of encourage when it comes back eaten!
See the ideas below for some new inspirations!
Veg / Salads which children may be more willing to try:
- Raw sweet corn or baby corncobs
- Grated carrot – great for adding into a sandwich or cold pasta salad.
- Small salad box in packed lunch with variety of mixed peppers slices such red, yellow & orange, carrot sticks, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes and cucumber sticks
- Uncooked baby spinach leaves are a great alternative to lettuce in sandwiches.
Fruits which children may be more willing to try:
- Pre sliced fruit e.g. instead of a whole orange try cutting it into 4 and popping it into a small sealed bag
- Small fruit box in packed lunch with mixed grapes, a peeled satsuma, pre sliced kiwi fruit, a few blueberries or sliced strawberries
- A small box of raisins or other dried fruit (dried fruit is best kept to meal times as it can result in tooth decay if eaten in-between meals)
Packed Lunch Ideas
- Tuna & sweet corn pasta salad, small banana, fruit yoghurt, bottle of plain water.
- Egg & cress roll, small tub of natural yoghurt with a handful of blueberries, carton of pure fruit juice
- Tortilla wrap or pitta bread with wafer thin cooked meat e.g. ham, turkey, roast beef) and several baby spinach leaves, a pre sliced orange in small bag, tumbler of milk.
- Salmon cous cous with a salad box (a few cherry tomatoes and sliced mixed peppers), fruit yogurt, carton of pure fruit juice.
- Chicken & sweet corn sandwich with fruit box (Satsuma segments & handful of grapes) fruit yoghurt and bottle of plain water
- Cheese (e.g. cheddar, edam, mozzarella or cream cheese) and cherry tomato bagel or baguette, small bag of dried fruit & nuts or fruit & nut cereal bar, plain bottle of water
- Falafel & hummus pitta bread or chapattis, salad box (carrot sticks), an apple, fruit yoghurt and bottle of plain water
- Wholegrain crackers with peanut butter, small banana, cheese chunks and bottle of water
Any comments or other ideas please let me know!