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Lunchboxes can be a real challenge - you want to make sure your children eat a variety of healthy foods, but you also need to know the lunch will be eaten! By including foods from each of the four food groups you will help ensure they get all the necessary nutrients. Asking your children what they would like, or involving them in preparing their own lunchboxes, will reduce the likelihood of the food being thrown away or coming home uneaten.
The healthy lunchbox
Lets think about filling our lunchbox in terms of the four food groups:
- Vegetable sticks - carrot, cucumber and celery with an optional dip such as cottage cheese, hummus, pesto, Greek yoghurt, tzatziki or *peanut butter.
- Small (cherry) or chopped tomatoes
- Fresh fruit - chopping bigger fruit beforehand will make it easier to eat - a variety throughout the week maintains interest and ensures a variety of nutrients
- Fruit pottles
- Mini salads - coleslaw or a lettuce salad with tomato, grated carrot and cucumber
- Small packet or handful of raisins or dried fruit
Grain foods (bread, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals)
- Sandwiches - see below for filling and presentation ideas
- Cereal bars
- Plain biscuits
- Plain popcorn
- Rice crackers
- Potato or pasta salad
- Potato cakes
- Left over pasta and rice dishes
Milk and milk products (milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream)
- Pottle of yoghurt or yoghurt squeezables
- Plain or flavoured milk
- Cubes or slices of cheese
- Cottage cheese - add to sandwiches or use as a dip for vegetable sticks
Lean meat and alternatives (lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts & seeds, beans and lentils)
- Meat or chicken sandwiches
- Egg or tuna sandwiches
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Hummus - Add some to sandwiches or put a couple of tablespoons in a container to go alongside vegetable sticks
- *Peanut butter - add to sandwiches or use as a dip for vegetable sticks
- *A small handful of nuts and seeds
*Note: It may be wise to check your school’s policy on nuts as some schools can be ‘peanut free’
Tips on sandwiches
Try cutting sandwiches into shapes such as fingers or squares, and use various types of breads, rolls, wraps or pita pockets for sandwiches to add variety to lunches. Use wholemeal or wholegrain varieties where possible.
Sandwiches don’t have to be flash - they can be filled simply with a couple of slices of cheese, some vegemite or marmite, jam or *peanut butter. However, if you have other foods to hand, include some lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, avocado, grated carrot, thinly sliced capsicum, tinned corn kernels or bean sprouts to make the sandwich more nutritious.
- Tuna sandwich
Mix canned tuna with low fat mayonnaise along with a pinch pepper and a splash of lemon juice and spread onto bread. Refrigerate any left over tuna mix for the following day.
- Salad sandwich
Spread either some hummus or relish onto the bread. Top with grated cheese and available salad ingredients.
- Egg sandwich
Mash two hard-boiled eggs with low fat mayonnaise and chopped parsley.
- Leftovers sandwich
Use leftover lamb, beef, fish, chicken, or corned beef along with some relish or sauce for an economical and tasty sandwich
Keeping food safe
- Freeze a small container of water to put in alongside lunch as this will keep food cold and provide a cold lunchtime drink.
- Clean containers thoroughly after use with hot water and detergent.
- Throw out leftover food not eaten during the day.