BRAIN FOOD: Sit down with kids to make a list of healthy lunch box ideas that can take the stress out of decision making.
BRAIN FOOD: Sit down with kids to make a list of healthy lunch box ideas that can take the stress out of decision making. Carmen Barclay

Easy peasy the key to healthy kids

IT'S EASY to say 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away', but staying healthy at school can be a little more challenging than that.

Local dietician Elia Faa said planning, preparation and supervision were the keys to making sure kids are fuelled up for the new school year.

"It's all about setting yourself up for success and making it as easy as possible,” Ms Faa said.

"Getting prepared ahead of time takes the stress out of meals and lunch boxes in the moment, so you're more like to establish good habits from the start,” Ms Faa said.

"Simple things like having the right sized lunch boxes and containers, ice-blocks, labelling, making a list of lunch box ideas and shopping ahead of time - all those things can help.

"Parents still need to supervise their kids' meals and be aware of what food that they're taking to school, even if the kids are packing their own lunch boxes.”

Ms Faa said parents could sit down with their kids and come up with a list of healthy lunch box options that include balance and variety, with some fruit and vegetables each day.

"It's important to listen to what the kids want to eat, and negotiating a list of healthy options helps reduce the stress of having to think about what you're going to put in the lunch box when you're doing the weekly shop.”

Ms Faa warned parents of tempting snack foods that try to draw shoppers in with clever marketing.

"These products are very attractive because they store well and make it all very easy, but the nutritional quality is often poor. Kids can get their whole day's sodium requirement from one little snack like a packet of chips or two minute noodles.”

Another common pitfall was the habit of skipping breakfast, which dieticians often say is the most important meal of the day.

"Breakfast tends to deliver a hefty proportion of the nutrition for the day - especially in terms of calcium and fibre with things like cereals and milk,” Ms Faa said.

"By skipping breakfast, kids may be really letting themselves down in terms of their bone strength and long term health.”

Ms Faa said another common trap was making sure kids had enough in their lunch box each day, and being aware that their appetite can change on a daily basis.

"If they don't finish everything in their lunch box one day doesn't mean they won't need it the next day,” she said.

”Kids are often in a hurry to eat so if the food is not ready prepared - cut up and available - it often gets left behind.

"Sometimes this will lead them to snack on something less health or not eat at all and then fill up on biscuits or snack foods when they get home.”

Ms Faa said staying on top of kids' health was a challenge for many parents who were time poor.

"Preparing lunch boxes the night before while you're waiting for dinner to cook and making good use of leftovers are a few ways you can ease the stress.”

Healthy lunch box ideas

Fruit juice

Yoghurt tubs

Pikelets

Homemade popcorn

Celery with peanut butter or cream cheese

Fruit

Wholegrain sandwich or wrap with a filling that includes some salad vegetables

Hummus and crackers



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