What to pack for kids school lunches and snacks?
It's back to school this week - who can believe it is Term 4 and the year is almost done. Christmas is just around the corner!!
Back to school means packing kids lunchboxes again (one reason why I love the school holidays is because I get a break!). Deciding what to pack - something yummy and healthy that is unprocessed and kids will eat is really important. There is no point in packing healthy foods that your child does not like and won’t eat.
It never ceases to amaze me how much processed foods kids consume. This is always so evident to me when I go to school functions, or athletic and swimming carnivals. It makes me so angry and disheartened that this is what has become acceptable for kids to eat and that this is what is fueling their growth and development. Processed junk foods are often filled with sugar, vegetable oils, additives (preservatives, colours, flavours, emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners, etc). Processed and junk foods are the worst types of foods for growing bodies and affects their concentration levels at school, energy levels, as well as their mental and physical states. Often foods marketed towards kids looks exciting and ‘fun’ but holds no nutritional value at all, only ‘empty calories’. When kids eat these foods, their body is still hungry because they haven’t received the nutrition it needs so they want to eat more. This is also a contributing factor to childhood obesity.
What are kids eating at school?
When I asked my son what foods his friends eat at school, his answer was LCMs, noodle snacks, baked goods (such as muffins, cupcakes, cakes, cookies, biscuits), Pop tops, muesli bars, Oreos, Thins chips, Doritos, veggie chips, flavoured yoghurts, sandwich with ham & cheese, cheese balls and sticks. His answer (although I knew it to be true) still horrifies me. Even when my son had a school disco, it cost $8 entry fee and it included hot chips, water bottle and ice block. I don't understand why they have to offer hot chips and an ice block. How about a healthy option? I don't want my child to miss out on a school function but I don't want to be seen as the 'bad' parent who won't let her child eat the crap food.
Even the food sold in school canteens is not healthy (and I am not surprosed!). My son’s school sells the following foods in the canteen and is still meant to be a healthy school canteen: ice blocks, jelly sticks and jelly, slushies, chicken nuggets, noodles, meat pies, sausage rolls, sandwiches, juices, pop tops, popcorn.
I even approached the Principal and asked if I could help in making healthier options in the school canteen but it was a no-go.
Another issue with these processed foods is the packaging as they often come in individual servings. Compare this to wholefoods which don't have as much or any packaging compared to processed foods and as such, are better for the environment.
What should we do?
We should feed our kids well. Just because certain types of foods may be common and popular, doesn't mean they are a good healthy option.
Choose unprocessed wholefoods. Get back to basics.
Make healthier options so kids are able to concentrate and have energy to play, with no sugar highs and lows, and have better performance at school both mentally and physically.
Eat wholefoods to help build up their immune system so they have less chance of getting sick.
Give our kids foods that are healthy and whole so that their growing bodies are the healthiest they can be.
Teach kids about healthy whole foods will set kids up with a good foundation that will set them up for life.
What are some healthier options for kids?
I always try and pack some meat with some veggies and some carbs. Plus a piece of fruit for ‘fruit break’. Some healthier options to replace the processed foods include:
Organic chicken drumsticks or chicken wings
Homemade popcorn (made from scratch, not in a microwave)
Grass fed beef jerky
Piece of fruit or cut up fruit
Pieces of cheese
Vegetables e.g. carrot sticks, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives
Put some hot food in a little thermos for colder days
Make some healthy snacks with kids on the weekend to get them more involved in food and what they eat. Kids should learn that food does not always come out of a packet.
To make things easier when packing school lunches, I do it the night before and fill it up with food leftover from dinner. I always try to cook more than we will eat at dinner so I have enough for lunches (for myself included). This makes things so much easier and I don’t have to cook an additional meal or worry about what I am going to pack.
Be mindful of what your kids like and don’t like and pack them foods which they like and you know they will eat.
Try and mix it up everyday so they don’t have to eat the same thing everyday as they will get bored. Giving them a variety of foods will ensure that they get a wide variety of nutrients which their bodies need for growth and development. Remember - variety is the spice of life!!
Lunch containers which have separate compartments are a great idea as you can pack all different types of foods which don’t get mixed up, e.g. LunchBots. Try Biome: https://www.biome.com.au/445-stainless-steel-lunch-box. They are a little more expensive than the plastic containers but they are well worth your money. Plus you don’t have to worry about the plastic leaching into your child’s food. It is much healthier for them.
Be sure to pack a bottle of filtered water also in stainless steel containers (not plastic). Skip on the juices as these are just filled with sugar and are empty calories.
For further information…..
If you need any further information or ideas on what to pack in kids lunch boxes, send me a message or comment below. Check out my instagram page for more lunchbox ideas. There are always healthier options and alternatives to processed junk foods.