A nutritionist and former English teacher has revealed how to pack the perfect lunchbox – and it all comes down to including as many different ingredients as possible.
Sydney-based expert Lee Holmes said that over her years as a teacher, she has ‘seen the impact that nutritious meals can have on students’ and how it can really make a difference to their performance in the classroom.
Writing on her blog, Lee shared her tips and tricks for parents packing lunch this new school year. So what are they?
A nutritionist and former English teacher (pictured) has revealed how to pack the perfect lunchbox – and it all comes down to including as many different ingredients as possible
Sydney-based expert Lee Holmes said that over her years as a teacher, she has ‘seen the impact that nutritious meals can have on students’ (stock image)
Choose the right lunchbox
Firstly, Lee said your child should always be involved in the choosing of your child’s lunchbox – as this will make them more likely to want to eat from it later.
‘Let your child be involved in the purchasing of their lunchbox, make sure it’s sturdy with a strong lid, insulated or comes with an ice pack,’ Lee said.
She recommends picking something with separate pockets or ‘sections’ in them to avoid cross-contamination and ensure wet and dry foods are kept separately.
‘Using smaller lidded containers will protect the lunchbox and its contents and alleviate the need for foil and cling wrap,’ Lee said.
She uses these small containers for food items like dips, salads, fruit, wraps and casseroles.
‘A nutritionally-balanced lunchbox should contain an array of food from various food groups,’ Lee (pictured) said
Make sure it’s colourful
When it comes to what you should keep in your child’s lunchbox, Lee said colour is key for visual appeal.
What does the ideal school lunch sandwich contain?
* WHOLEGRAIN OR SOURDOUGH BREAD: Slow release carbohydrates help to stabilise blood sugar levels.
* PROTEIN: Lean meat, salmon, tuna, egg or tofu will help with alertness and endurance.
* HEALTHY FATS: Things like sunflower seeds, avocado and pumpkin seeds increase satiety, help to stabilise kids’ moods and boost their concentration.
* VEGETABLES X 2-3: Foods such as capsicum, carrot, mashed potato and cucumber contain fibre, vitamins and minerals kids need to keep their immune systems healthy.
‘A nutritionally-balanced lunchbox should contain an array of food from various food groups,’ Lee said.
She recommends plant-based treats like fresh juices and smoothies, chopped-up vegetables and hummus and seeds, as well as blueberries and strawberries over jelly and rich jams.
‘Use different types of fruits and vegetables, seeds, coconut flakes, full fat calcium rich dairy foods, protein rich foods such as meats, eggs, seed butters, pulses and tuna and oily fish,’ the nutritionist advised.
They will need some form of carbohydrates and healthy fats to ensure they stay full through the long day.
Things like sunflower seeds, avocado and pumpkin seeds can increase satiety, help to stabilise kids’ moods and boost their concentration.
Lee (pictured) pictured highlighted foods like sunflower seeds, avocado and pumpkin seeds, which can increase satiety, help to stabilise kids’ moods and boost their concentration
When it comes to what to include, Lee said you are much better off going for real butter over margarine and full fat yoghurt over the low fat, high sugar varieties
Make smart food swaps
What are the smart swaps you should make?
* Pick real butter over margarine.
* Choose full fat dairy instead of low fat.
* Choose organic meat over regular meat.
* Pick seasonal vegetables over those that are out of season.
* Choose plain yoghurt over fruit-filled, sugar-laden options.
While there can be a temptation to stuff a lunchbox full of sugary treats like Tim Tams, chocolate bars and lollies, Lee said instead you need to think about the smart but simple food swaps that will ensure your kids are healthy.
‘If you’re in doubt remember to try and choose wholefoods, which are as close to their natural state as possible,’ Lee said.
In order to save valuable cash, you could also opt for seasonal fruits and veggies, which are guaranteed to cost a little less.
‘Buy dried beans as they are more economical than canned,’ Lee said.
You should also pick real butter over margarine and full fat dairy instead of low fat.
Lee said the reason for this is that the low fat and sugar versions are often stuffed full of additives and so end up being worse for you.
‘You can also make your chocolate yoghurt with cacao powder and a touch of natural sweetener, or avocado and chocolate mousse using an avocado, a banana, two tablespoons of cacao powder and sweetener of your choice,’ Lee said.
‘Separate dry and wet ingredients such as dressings, sauces, spreads and slices of tomato for crackers and sandwiches in mini containers,’ Lee (pictured) said
Ensure it’s not going to go soggy
Ensuring your child’s lunch isn’t going to end up a soggy, mixed-up mess is a task for any parent.
Which is why Lee said it’s important to make sure dry and wet ingredients aren’t mixed together.
‘Separate dry and wet ingredients such as dressings, sauces, spreads and slices of tomato for crackers and sandwiches in mini containers, and let them engage in some of the construction of the food,’ Lee said.
You should also try to make sure there are a variety of textures in your child’s lunchbox, so that they don’t get bored.
When it comes to drinks, water and homemade juices or smoothies are always a good option.
‘Make water fun for them and give them a straw, add some ice and squeeze fresh lemon in to or a mint leaf give it a hint of flavour. You could even drop a couple of frozen berries in,’ she said.
To find out more about Lee Holmes, please visit her website Supercharged Food here.
What is the recipe for Lee’s ultimate after-school snack?
Lee shared her recipe for the ultimate after-school snack, chocolate popsicles (pictured)
65 g (214 oz/14 cup) nut butter
60 ml (2 fl oz/14 cup) coconut milk or coconut water
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey or sweetener of choice
4 iceblock (popsicle/ice lolly) moulds and sticks
1. Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor to combine.
2. Pour into the ice block moulds and add the sticks, then freeze until set.
3. Happy lunchbox fixing! And I’d love to hear some of your favourite things to include in your school lunch boxes below.
Source: Supercharged Food