When we think of school lunches normally food items such as a sandwich, mini pizza, cookies, a pack of juice come to mind. These are what usually form the lunch box of a child. Why is that so? Mainly because they are convenient and children like them too. No preparation time is required, saving you time and effort, and all you have to do is pop them in your child’s bag. Children also love you for that. But are parents really doing a favor to their kids by giving them such items for school lunch? Not really. Not only are these highly processed but they also contain high levels of sodium, preservatives and sugar, making them unhealthy. School canteens also do not always have a variety of healthy options available. Besides, it is better for you to pack homemade lunch for your children rather than giving them money to buy something from school. Not only will that ensure that the food is hygienic and nutritious but it will also save loads of money over time. Since most kids are unaware of the health hazards of unhealthy food, it is up to you to provide them with nutritious meals and help them eat healthy.
Last night’s leftovers
No, there is no hard and fast rule that school lunches can only include chips and cookies. Last night’s leftovers will work just fine. Did your child love the meatballs from last night? You could make some extra and maybe add some rice with it. There you have a healthy lunch ready and something that your child would be eager to have. You could prepare chicken chunks, make chicken and egg spread for a sandwich, fry or bake boneless fish. There are plenty of options for you to consider. Just make sure to pack everything properly to ensure freshness and safety. You could use a thermos for warm food. Include reusable utensils and cloth napkin for ease.
Fruits and vegetables
Pack them such that they can be eaten easily. A child would prefer sliced apples and oranges rather than a whole one. The downside is that they would turn brown by lunch time and your child would rather skip them. Use lemon juice on them to avoid that. Bananas could be given as they are. A bag of grapes is also a good idea. Rather than buying jams and jellies from the stores, you could prepare these at home. The ones available in the supermarket contain very high sugar levels plus preservatives. Some children tend to prefer smoothies over eating fruits. If your child is one of them, you could skip on whole fruits and instead prepare a fruit smoothie, with maybe just a small portion of some vegetable, like spinach. Believe me they would not be able to spot the difference. The best part is that this could be prepared the night before and frozen.
Smoothies are a good way for your child to consume dairy. If not, you could give them the small tetra packs of milk available in the market. Another option is yogurt that you could freeze at night and it would be ready to be eaten by lunchtime. You could add fruits to the yogurt to make it more appealing to a child’s palate. But while you are working on adding dairy to your kids’ diet, think about choosing organic dairy products. You will be doing a favor not only to your children but also to the environment. Factory farms are still injecting artificially produced hormones into cows that make them give more milk. This is not natural and definitely not healthy for you, your children, or the cows. Opt for organic milk even if it costs slightly more.
How can you incorporate grains in your child’s lunch? Whole grain or whole wheat bread should be preferred over white bread. Prepare rice cakes at home and sprinkle them with fruit syrup or maybe peanut butter to make them more appealing. Whole grain crackers are also a good idea and you could also include cheese in the lunch box to go with them. Making cookies at home of whole grains, such as oatmeal raisin cookies instead of the usual chocolate chip, will add nutritional value to their desserts.
Meat does not necessarily have to be a part of your child’s diet to get them to take in protein. If they do not like it, do not fret. There are alternatives. Egg is a great source of protein, and packaged perfectly for on the go. Hard boiled eggs are easy to prepare and eat. Nuts are also good for lunch or snack time. You could prepare chicken salad or a tuna sandwich if they are into these.
Children who have healthy, well balanced lunches are better able to concentrate in their class than those who go for the less variations. So there is another reason you should ensure that your children are being supplied with a healthy lunch box. There is also the issue of food allergy to consider. If a certain kind of food does not suit your child, it is best to have their lunch packed from home. Kids may not be as careful about their food choices even if you have instructed them about it beforehand. It is better to be safe.
Batool Ali is an international blogger who loves to write on different disciplines such as Health, lifestyle, fashion, finance and education.