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Tips on packing a healthy lunch box


Packing a kid’s lunch box – sounds like an easy task, right? Think again.

These days for busy parents and caregivers this can sometimes equate to navigating your way through the dense forests of the Amazon, blindfolded.

Parents are being bombarded each way they turn in the supermarket aisles with product after product lining the shelves claiming to be the next best thing to add to your child’s lunch box.

The marketing is bright, shiny and appealing to kids. They come individually packaged for your kid’s convenience. However, in a market oversaturated with lunch box products, are all of these self-proclaimed healthy choices actually what they claim to be? What are the sneaky products you need to watch out for?

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My background is working in the Taranaki region helping families to make behaviour change around food and eating habits to better the health of their entire whānau. In my role the most requested topic of discussion by far is the mind boggling task of packing a lunch box. How much food should I give? How many snacks is enough? Will they not be hungry if I give them less?

All parents and caregivers are just trying to do the best they can on tight time frames in the morning, so the first piece of advice I can give is this – don’t take on the task alone.

Your kids need to start taking responsibility for preparing their own lunch, or if too young at least giving you a hand. It will teach them the value of time management in the mornings and start to ease them into the topic of healthy food and giving them the skills to pick food that is going to give their bodies much-needed nutrition to concentrate throughout the day.

Once you’ve roped in some help it’s time to consider portion distortion.

As a society, we are eating too much food and are not as active and so are not burning off this extra energy. Parents are afraid that their children will go hungry and so are over-packing the school lunch box.

The trick is to make sure you are packing foods that keep the kids full so they do not need the large quantities. For example: choosing multigrain bread/crackers over white bread/crackers gives the kids extra fibre, which helps them to feel full. Also adding unprocessed meat, egg, tuna, nut spread adds protein to the main element will help them grow and keep them fuller for longer.

Therefore, two slices of multigrain bread/one brown pitta/one wholemeal wrap with filling should be plenty to keep them full. These high fibre carbohydrate foods will give the kids slow-releasing energy to help them concentrate at school.

Aside from this main lunch element – two snacks for morning tea and another small snack at main lunchtime should be sufficient to keep the kids fuelled until home time. Choosing snacks with fibre, protein and healthy fats is the best way to ensure they stay full, while giving their body important nutrients to help them focus and participate in school activities and sports.

Good examples are nuts, fruit, boiled eggs, veggie sticks and hummus or cream cheese.

Try preparing snacks at home as opposed to buying them in packets – not just to be environmentally friendly but also to avoid the hidden salt, sugar and unhealthy fats that are usually added to packaged food to make them taste good and preserve the food.

Some seemingly healthy packets, such as vegetable crisps, fruit or oat bars and low fat yoghurts, may claim to be a healthier alternative but in reality have a lot of salt and sugar added by the manufacturers.

Lastly, hydration station.

Water and milk are the best drinks to be offering your kids to help their brains function at school. Sweet drinks such as Raro, fizzy drinks, and flavoured milks are negatively affecting your child’s health and are an opportunity to save money by cutting them out. Send them off with a water bottle to reduce any barriers to accessing water and to remind them to keep sipping throughout the day.

Niamh O’Sullivan is a New Zealand Registered Dietitian

Gluten free banana bread is great for the children's lunch box.

Supplied

Gluten free banana bread is great for the children’s lunch box.

Homemade Seedy Gluten-Free Banana Loaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Servings 12 servings

Ingredients

2 to 3 very ripe bananas mashed

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1  tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups gluten-free flour (premix is fine)

¼ tsp xanthan gum (leave out if your flour already has it in it – check ingredients)

Pinch salt

½ cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs , beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

3 Tble linseeds

½ cup ground almonds

Sliced almonds or banana chips for decoration

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Spray a medium loaf tin with cooking spray.

3. In a mixing bowl, mash the ripe bananas until smooth.

4. Add the baking soda to the mashed bananas.

5. Stir the olive oil into the mashed bananas.

6. Stir in the sugar, salt, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla extract.

7. Mix in the gluten-free flour, ground almonds, linseeds and xanthan gum (leave out if your flour already has it in it).

8. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.

9. Bake on the centre rack for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

10. 3-5 minutes before taking out of oven add sliced almonds on top or banana chips for decoration.

11. Cool completely before slicing.

Homemade hummus keeps in the fridge for two weeks.

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Homemade hummus keeps in the fridge for two weeks.

Homemade hummus

Minutes to Prepare: 10

Minutes to Cook: 60

Number of Servings: 10

Ingredients

1 can of chick peas, drained

1 cup roasted pumpkin

1 cup roasted orange kumara

1 head of roasted garlic

1 tsp cumin

2 tsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp ground cashews

2 Tbsp sesame oil

2-4 Tbsp olive oil

water (if required)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees C.

2. Wash pumpkin & cut into 1 inch strips.

3. Peel orange kumara & cut into 1 inch cubes.

4. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray (optional).

5. Toss the pumpkin & kumara lightly in olive oil & spread out on baking sheet.

6. Cut the top off of a whole head of garlic. Place on baking sheet with veggies & drizzle with a little olive oil.

7. Roast on middle rack for approximately 1hr or until tender, turning  half way through.

8. Allow to cool slightly & then scrape pumpkin from rind.

9. Measure out 1 cup each of pumpkin & sweet potatoes & add to a food processor.

10. Add roasted garlic (squeeze out the cloves).

11. Add 1 can of drained chick peas.

12. Add sesame oil, olive oil, ground cashews, lemon juice and cumin.

13. Puree until smooth, adding water if it is too thick.

14. Serve with vegetable sticks (e.g. carrots, cucumber) and baby tomatoes or wholegrain crackers.

*Keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks.

*You can freeze extras as it makes approximately 5 cups.

Be Natural Berry Bliss Granola had a good amount of fibre, but a bit much added sugar for our reviewer's liking.

Supplied

Be Natural Berry Bliss Granola had a good amount of fibre, but a bit much added sugar for our reviewer’s liking.

Product Review – Be Natural Berry Bliss Granola

by Brenda Szabo, Registered Dietitian

I was lucky enough to be a recipient of the Summer Beach Black Box campaign recently. In this box of goodies was a package of the Berry Bliss Granola made by the company ‘Be Natural’.

The claims on this box were that it is ‘high in whole grains’, ‘source of fibre’ and ‘no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives’. It also highlighted that this was ‘plant power’ – vegan, energy, grains. That all sounded pretty good and I love a good muesli or granola when I get up as an option to get my morning started.

Looking at the nutritional breakdown per 100g we’ve got energy/calories weighing in at 1690kj (404kcal), total fat is 8.9g with saturated fat being 1.0g.

This is pretty reasonable when recommendations are to aim for less than 10g total fat, and less than 2.0g saturated fat.

Sodium is on the high side at 200mg, but still meeting the recommendations of less than 400mg. Sugar is high at 23.6g where we should be aiming for less than 10-15g.

This granola does contain dried fruit, contributing to the sugar value, but it also has added raw sugar and brown rice syrup. Fibre is 9.8g which is meeting the recommendation of >6g per 100g.

This product has a health star rating of 4. If you don’t know much about the health stars – the more stars there are, the better a product should be.

The food is rated on energy content and things like fat, salt, sugar, dietary fibre, protein and proportions of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes; and compared to similar products within its category e.g. cereals/muesli.

On the ingredient list, which are in weight order, the first listed is wholegrains at 55 per cent of the total product and this is made up of oats, triticale, wheat, barley and rye.

Raw sugar is second on the list followed by berries (7 per cent of total product). We also have puffed triticale, brown rice syrup, sunflower oil, seeds, salt, natural flavour, rosemary extract and vitamin E. If you’ve never heard of triticale before, it’s a cross between wheat and rye.

As for taste – I quite enjoyed the taste and the crunch factor, although it was a little sweet for me.

Perhaps they could have cut back on the raw sugar added as there is quite a bit of sweetness from the cranberries, strawberries and blackberries. I added some greek yoghurt and some frozen blueberries (letting them thaw before eating).

Overall I liked that this granola was, as marketed, high in wholegrains, had a good amount of fibre, and that it didn’t have any preservatives or additives; but would have liked a bit less added sugar and salt for health and taste preferences.

At a cost of $6.99 per 450g (similar product by same company) this is not something that I would buy regularly, preferring something more within our family budget, but perhaps for special occasions.

 



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