Nutrients for school lunchboxes
Our kids require lots of different nutrient to make sure they are getting the most out of their school day! Making sure they have a selection of foods that cover these bases can be a challenge.
Carbohydrates are one of the nutrients required by our bodies in larger quantities - it is known as a macronutrient. Carbohydrates are utilised by the body to provide energy for body and mind and are found in a number of food sources. Not all carbohydrates are created equal and while sugary items are often the most popular for little ones, complex carbohydrates are best for sustaining them through out the day. Sources of carbohydrates are (opt for brown or multigrain) foods like bread, pasta, rice, crispbreads, crackers and wraps. For those who cannot eat certain grains or may be minimising them, carbohydrates are also available from foods like vegetables.
Protein is another one of those important nutrients for kid's lunchboxes; it is required for growth, learning and many metabolic processes.
Protein can help little tummies feel fuller for longer and sustain them for longer periods of time. Protein can work as a filling for sandwiches or prepared into a salad for example.
There are a number of sources of proteins - meats like beef, lamb, chicken. Eggs, fish (like tuna), cheese are other examples.
If you prefer a non animal based protein, then beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh are great options.
Remember - in the hot weather food can spoil so make sure there is a cold pack in that lunch box on the hot days!
Healthy fats are involved in brain development and growth and are essential component of our kid’s diets. Not only for brain health, they have a role in sustaining energy levels and helping your child feel fuller for longer.
There is a big difference between foods that provide unhealthy (or what I call “hot chip fats”) and healthy fats.
Sources of healthy fats are foods such as avocado, oily fish like tuna or salmon, eggs, seeds and dairy.
You can incorporate these foods into a salad or sandwich or given as a stand alone food for those who like to graze.
Dietary fibre is an important addition to children's lunchboxes. Fibre helps keep kid's bowel motions regular and can take a while to digest helping our kids feel fuller for longer. It may also assist in maintaining energy levels by balancing blood sugar - this will aid in concentration and focus. Fibre is also beneficial for our microbiome - which is the good bacteria found in our gut.
Fruits and vegetables are a great source - they also contain a range of vitamins and minerals. These are perfect foods to give for snacks or "brain food" times. Other good sources are wholegrains, beans and lentils.
Learning is thirsty work and making sure a child is well hydrated enhances their ability to concentrate and learn. What your child drinks can have an effect on their health both inside and outside of the classroom.
Water is the best drink to offer - it is essential for life and keeps kids hydrated. It has the added bonus of acting as an ice block to keep food cool if you freeze it overnight and add it to the lunch box.
Fruit juice is something that many kids will request in their lunchboxes. Keep in mind it can be high in sugars. Also, it is best to avoid sweetened drinks such as cordials and soft drinks. Not only to they affect children's energy levels and ability to concentrate and focus, they can also have a detrimental affect on children's teeth.