A healthy diet is crucial in order to foster healthy, happy children. It’s easy to fall into the habit of giving kids the same food in their lunchboxes every day and more often than not, they tend to be packaged food because it’s just easier that way. However, not only will kids get bored with a daily diet of sandwiches, an apple and a bag of potato chips, it’s not ideal for their health to limit the variety of fresh foods they are eating. Preparing a healthy and interesting lunchbox does not need to be expensive or child-unfriendly.
Here are our top 10 ideas which can add variety into your child’s diet:
- Sushi or Rice Paper Rolls – these are a good alternative to sandwiches and you can fill them with your child’s favourite fillings. Get your kids to help make them too – it could be a Sunday afternoon activity you can enjoy as a family. Research shows that kids are more likely to eat the food they help prepare.
- Add Some Fruit – Kids like fresh fruit cut and ready to eat. Fruit salad is the ideal lunch box solution; it’s colourful, easy to eat and bursting with vitamins. Offer different seasonal fruits each day for a change in flavour, colour, texture and nutrients.
- Treats Not Sweets – Instead of filling your child’s lunchbox with sugary and fatty snacks, pack some stickers or notes or other “treasures” they can find upon opening. There are many ways to make a lunchbox exciting without including unhealthy foods.
- Warm It Up – Try adding warm foods to the mix and offering a thermos full of stews, pasta or soup. These can be left-overs from last night’s dinner to save you cooking time. From a Chinese medicine perspective, warm foods are good for the digestion, because too many cold, raw foods can deplete the digestive “fire” needed to break down food ready to be absorbed.
- Dip In – There are lots of healthy dips available, or you could make your own. Depending on your child’s tastes you could experiment with ones they like and pack a lunchbox for them including a little jar of their favourite dip with some veggie sticks like carrot and capsicum.
- Don’t Forget Protein – Kids need protein snacks, especially at lunchtime, to fuel their brains and to keep their bellies feeling full. Great ideas for protein-dense snacks include boiled eggs and some tuna or salmon patties, eaten cold. Patties are a great way to hide veggies and legumes too, like lentils. Another great idea are these gluten-free cheese and spinach triangles.
- Spice Up The Sandwich Fillings – Add leftover (or cook extra) roast pumpkin or sweet potato to sandwiches, wraps and roll fillings. Naturally sweet and loaded with beneficial antioxidants, roast vegetables team well with a range of fillings. Always use wholemeal breads where possible, or other nutrient-dense breads such as spelt (depending on the tastes of your children).
- Popcorn – Popcorn is a great snack to fill your kid’s lunchbox with, and is a great alternative to potato chips. You can easily pop your own at home and can be another activity you can enjoy together as a family.
- Brekky Bars – If your child is a breakfast skipper, or to add to lunchboxes as a healthy “treat”- check out the recipe of our Banana Health Bars here. Or, you could try this Apricot, Cranberry and Pistachio Health Slice.
- The Surprise Factor – Okay, so your child will not budge from the Vegemite sandwich. Introduce the unexpected by cutting their Vegemite sandwich with a cookie cutter. It may well be their first step in understanding that variety is the spice of life. Plus, if you make a sandwich with lots of healthy things inside which you are unsure if your children will eat or not, using a cookie cutter and cutting the bread into different shapes can make it look more fun and more appealing for little mouths!