What a joy it is to open your lunchbox and find something delicious you weren't expecting! I try every day to make it interesting and varied, with as little reliance upon processed foods as possible. Research shows that kids need t6o be exposed to new foods up to 15 times before their taste buds adjust to it and they 'like ' it. So persevere. You are doing it for their health. Make it varied and interesting as your budget and time make possible.
Shopping for food is a big responsibility. You are setting up your child's health for their lifespan. What you give them now will affect their health later on, especially in middle age. Rushing around the supermarket throwing packets of stuff into the trolley is NOT taking the task seriously or with any real regard for health. You can do better than that. You don't have to be perfect. You don't have to spend hours every day stressing about it. Just good choices, wherever you can. Packets are sometimes unavoidable, so make it you habit to question:
- What is inside the packet
- Where it comes from
This includes fresh food too. If I'm super busy or sick in bed I shop online and get it delivered. This allows me to do it late at night but also to research the contents of what I am buying. I will not buy food from China. They have poor regulations about such things as pesticides and have a track record of unspeakable, horrid things they put into food, such as Melamine (a toxic plastic building material) in baby's formula. Yes, that is absolutely true. And these details are sometimes buried in the news, so look and listen out for them. We discovered our frozen veg was from New Zealand, but grown in China and packaged in NZ. Toxic chemicals are not listed on the packet as ingredients, people! The only safe, Australian grown and packaged brand of frozen food is BIRDSEYE.
Support local, organic growers
We have our fruit and veg delivered by a local company who source local organic (free of pesticides) foods each week. I order online, choosing which box and what I want in it. We live with what's seasonally available. This is the natural way to live, folks! The supermarkets offer tasteless fruit and vegetables all year round, imported from all over the place. You have no idea what the growing conditions were like and you know its been genetically engineered to look perfect and travel a long way. If not GM, it comes from a farm where the farmer has to dump almost half the crop because it doesn't look perfect. Such waste!
What's in the lunchbox then?
So back to lunches. My daughter has three containers. For some reason schools think kids can't go for more than a couple of hours without food, (ridiculous and not actually healthy for digestion), so she has 'crunch and sip', recess and lunch. This should not affect the overall amount of food you give your child. It should still be within a reasonable amount for a child that age. Look up weight/height ranges to find out what's 'normal'. Kids are always hungry, so they are not the ones to make the decision about portion size. You are.
Her lunch consists of:
- A sandwich or wrap containing a protein, which might be chicken, tuna or leftover mince from last night's spaghetti bolognaise. Regular, full fat cheese is also included as protein in the absence of meat/fish. I sometimes include a smidgin of good quality salad dressing if needed. She absolutely loves corned beef with whole honey mustard.
- A vegetable of some kind. This might be lettuce, in the wrap, but the easiest (and yummiest) is carrot sticks for recess. So quick and easy to peel a juicy, snap-hard carrot and cut it into thin sticks. Amazing what I can get her to eat if its cut up! I sometimes substitute cucumber sticks, which she also likes.
- Seasonal fruit. I halve a plum, passionfruit, kiwi fruit or nectarine and put it in the container, ready to eat. If it's pear season I cut it into longer thinner pieces. (she's not that keen on pear but will eat it this way). I also add her personal spoon to make it easier for passionfruit or kiwi fruit.
- A slice of homemade cake.
- A small handful of soya chips. I know these are packet foods, but in the scheme of things, they're a lot better than most.
- Two small biscuits. I find 'Rich Tea' biscuits are plain but have currants in them, which adds flavour.
There's a misconception (a lie in fact, told by companies wanting you to buy their rubbish) that kids need lots of sugary stuff 'for energy.' Including sugary fruit drinks, like juice. Well here's the news, kids get their energy from carbs and protein. Energy is created in the body from the fuel we give it. Complex, nutrition-rich foods which take hours to digest are more satisfying and produce long-lasting energy. 'Sugar' is processed sugar cane, metres of it, to produce a single teaspoon. Would you say its normal to chomp on metres of sugar cane? Then it's not normal to have foods containing high sugar levels. One can of coke - 10-15 teaspoons of sugar! Ban fizzy drinks form your child's diet altogether and limit fruit juices. We always dilute juice half with water anyway. Your child's taste buds might take a little while to adapt to less sugar, but the new normal will be much better for their health.
Rich Tea has 8% saturated fat and 23% sugar. Not ideal, but a lot better than Tim Tams!
Check the packet!
Do your research - check the packet and focus on two main things - FAT and SUGAR content. Look at the per 100g column. This number is then a percentage. If its higher than say 15-20g of sugar in every 100g of energy, that's 20% sugar.
The ingredients list should be as simple as possible and not begin with a number! The soya chips I buy have these ingredients:
- Wheat starch, sunflower oil, soya bean solids, sugar, sea salt, onion powder, malt extract, soy sauce powder, soya bean, wheat flour, garlic powder, chives.
NEVER give potato crisps. They are high in salt, saturated fat and trans fats (the worst of all, cancer causing fats) and have no nutritional value, despite being 'a vegetable'.
It's a terrible shame we can't give nuts to our kids at school, (because of allergies) because they are super foods, giving sustained energy. So I make up for that by giving them for afternoon tea.
Because caffeine is not considered an nutritional ingredient it can be added secretly to foods to increase your addiction to them. Case in point - Yoghurt. Yes, I said yoghurt, that seemingly healthy dairy product that makes such a delicious, convenient snack in those cute little tubs. Also be very aware of the double snack tubs, with muesli and yoghurt. High in fat and sugar. Avoid them! You can do better. Natural Greek style yoghurt with your own flavourings, such as fruit, is much better.
So, I know it all seems a bit much and we're all so busy these days, trying to keep all the plates spinning in the air, at home and work. So to simplify it -
- Check the packet
- Use locally grown pesticide free fruit and veg where possible
- Be strict with sugar and fat
- Persist with new foods at least 15 times
You can do it.