The Ultimate Lunchbox
Last week I did a talk on children’s nutrition at my kids school. It was great to see so many dedicated and health-conscious parents wanting to do their best for their kids health, growth and development.
We discussed a lot of different areas, however one topic came up as a big one for all parents: what to put in the kids lunchboxes. Parents are always on the lookout for healthy lunch box options and foods that WILL get eaten.
Quite co-incidentally, my daughter (5y.o) brought in her school reader yesterday and it was called ‘My lunch box’! The layout and pictures looked a bit outdated, probably about 10 years old but it is definitely not a very old book and to be honest, I think a LOT of people are still packing this sort of lunch for their kids today.
We read the book and then talked about the foods in it. I asked my daughter (quite nutritionally aware for 5y.o) what the healthiest things were in these pictures and she said ‘the orange’. We talked about why the other foods are a poor choice in simple language. I’ll give you the adult version here:
What’s wrong with these ‘foods’?
-All these foods (except that orange!) are devoid of nutrients – they are calorie dense but nutrient poor food products that provide calories from sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed dairy. They have no business being in anybody’s lunchbox.
-Biscuits or crackers that you find in boxes in the supermarket are usually made with refined white flour, hydrogenated vegetable oils (to ensure long shelf life), refined salt, additives, emulsifiers and numbered preservatives. Usually sprayed with synthetic vitamins to boost ‘nutrient value’.
-Cheese slices/sticks, cream cheese and other types of highly processed cheese (usually purchased in numerous layers of BPA laden plastic) do not resemble even closely the real cheese made on farms from milk of grass fed cows. These products are very high in preservatives and stabilisers.
-Fruit juices (usually in plastic bottles and BPA laden cartons with plastic straws) contain more sugar in one serve than a child needs for 3 days. They are extremely concentrated calories with very little nutrition. Vitamin C that was contained in real fruit is destroyed during the pasteurisation process and synthetically added at the final stages of production.
-Dried fruit like sultanas will almost always contain preservatives in the form of sulphates, which in sensitive people can trigger respiratory reactions or asthma. Dried fruit packets contain enough sugar to last a child a week. I often see kids go through 2-3 packets of these little boxes at a time, I doubt they would ever eat 1/2 kg of grapes in 1 sitting. Real fruit always wins over dried preserved fruit.
What foods belong in a lunchbox?
It’s actually all simple stuff. Fruit. Veggies. Meat/chicken/fish. Seeds (because nuts are not allowed at schools). Home made real food treats.
This is the sort of lunch box I send for my kids: raw veggies, home made seed crackers (recipe here), chicken ‘nuggets’ (organic chicken mince mixed with 1 egg, coconut flour and herbs and spices, cooked in coconut oil) and a home made brownie (buckwheat flour, seeds, berries, raw cacao).
No processed oils. No preservatives or numbers. No added sugars. Also no gluten or dairy -for those with sensitive gut health these foods are harmful.
Maybe one day this sort of lunch box will become the norm and be published in a kids reader:).