1. Plant food
Salad vegetables in a sandwich or wrap. Remember the most important thing is that you eat mostly minimally processed, wholesome, natural foods.
• In a sandwich or wrap: Lettuce, tomato (seeds removed so the wrap won’t go soggy), cucumber, grated carrot, sliced or grated beetroot, roast capsicum. But if your child won’t eat salad in their sandwich: try putting them separately.
• In a smoothie – blend a few fresh veggies with a little fresh fruit and pour into a thermos that will keep it cool until lunchtime. Or you can whip up a protein-rich smoothie with milk, yoghurt and berries.
• Raw veggies with a dip, e.g. carrot, celery & cucumber sticks with hummus.
• Fruit – either whole, or I find my kids almost always eat it if I chop into bite sized pieces & pop into a ziploc bag or container.
• Carton of fruit in fruit juice (not syrup).
• The Nathan Bar with Blueberries and Almonds.
You need protein at every meal to help regulate appetite, provide amino acids for growth and development, and to provide the micronutrients that accompany protein-rich foods. Here are some great tips:
• Cook extra meat at dinner, slice and have ready in the fridge for sandwiches/wraps & salads.
• Poach a couple of chicken breasts on Sunday, slice and keep in the fridge.
• Cold Cuts are popular but are high in salt as well as preservatives. Try Brands like Applegate, that are less processed and limit it to no more than 2 times a week.
• Cheese provides high quality protein and is an excellent source of calcium. Add to sandwiches/wraps or give as a stick to have with sliced apple or pear, or with a couple of grainy crackers or oatcakes.
• Canned tuna or salmon – dress with a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon, or ‘proper’ mayonnaise made with extra virgin olive oil.
• Smoked salmon or trout – is high in salt but a terrific source of protein and an excellent source of long chain omega-3 fats essential for brain development (canned salmon will also provide these). Provided there aren’t too many other high salt foods, these are often popular with kids.
• Eggs – hard-boiled and added to sandwiches/wraps or salads. Or simply wrap in cling film as a snack.
• Yogurt – many parents are concerned about the amount of sugar in fruit yogurts, however bear in mind that the grams on the side of the pack include the sugar in the milk, the fruit and the added sugar. The best option is to mix fresh (or frozen) fruit with natural yogurt, but for convenience try YOKIDS – Most Yogurts are low GI, rich in calcium and high quality protein.
• Milk is an excellent protein and calcium rich drink. Transporting it in the lunchbox is the tricky bit, especially with very active kids! You can freeze a carton of milk and it will have defrosted and still be cold by lunchtime. If you can find suitable refillable containers, that is likely to be your best bet. If your child won’t drink plain milk, try making homemade flavoured milks (where you can control how it is sweetened) or smoothies with milk, yogurt and fruit. but watch out for milks that contain CARRAGEENAN
• For dairy-free diets you can substitute oat, rice or almond milks.
• The ENZO mini bars - almond and cashew with 2g of plant protein.
2. Smart Carbs
The trick is to get the right ones – those that will deliver sustained energy, plus loads of fiber and nutrients. Here are a few ideas:
• Wholegrain, low-GI breads & wraps.
• Beans, chickpeas & lentils – these can be added to soups or salads, however I also add beans to tuna mayonnaise sandwich fillings.
• Non GMO Sweet corn – great in sandwiches, soups & salads.
• Pasta (wholegrain, but regular pasta is still low GI), brown rice, freekeh or quinoa can all be used in soups or whipped up into a salad.
• Wholegrain, air-popped corn.
• Homemade muffins using wholegrain flours are terrific – you can make savoury ones with vegies, or sweet ones with fruit. You can simply use wholegrain wheat flour, or experiment with the new kids on the block such as lupin, teff or green banana flour. These all have nutritional benefits and will lower the GI of the muffins.
• The Ruby - Just Cranberry Bar made with whole grain gluten free oats, seeds, dried fruit and honey is the perfect bar for anyone with a nut allergy.
3. Good Fat
You need fat (especially the omega-3 fats found in fish) to help to slow down the absorption of the carbs in the meal, so lunch will keep them fuller for longer rather than have them fading by 2pm. Here are a few ideas as to how to get good fats into the lunchbox:
• Extra virgin olive oil – to dress a pasta, rice or quinoa salad or to make a homemade super healthy mayo.
• Hummus, mashed avocado, pesto, and tahini are terrific in sandwiches/wraps.
• Remember you will also get some fat from meats, cheese and other full fat dairy foods, and oily fish such as salmon or trout.
• The Lola Bar with cranberries and almonds.
• Don't forget a refillable bottle of water you can drink from throughout the day. Be sure to empty this at the end of the day, wash and refill fresh each day. Water helps keep skin looking bright.