The kids will be back in the class room shortly and parents will soon be spending their mornings packing lunch boxes. Many parents find it difficult to make a healthy lunch that their children will actually want to eat. The National Children’s Food Survey found that 68% of parents find it hard to provide a healthy diet for their child.
With this in mind Danone’s resident nutritionist, Kellie O’Connor, has developed some tips and healthy lunch ideas to help ensure the right combination of nutrients for children to help get them through their busy school day.
Kellie suggests that children should be encouraged to develop healthy eating habits at an early age and the beginning of the school year is the perfect time to introduce these eating habits. Her lunchbox tips are designed to be easily incorporated into the daily family routine. They do not require extensive cooking or preparation.
She recommends that a child’s sandwiches should be nutritionally balanced and that they should vary from day to day. So try using different breads each day if possible, switching from wraps, pitas and different breads, as well as a variety of fillings. Probiotic yogurts and fruits should also be put in the lunchbox instead of foods that are high in sugar and fat.
When children go back to school or daycare, they are more likely to pick up illnesses and infections, so providing them with foods that will boost their immune system is very important. It has been proven that the consumption of Danone Actimel probiotic drinking yogurt can significantly reduce the incidence of some common infections such as ear infections, sinusitis, the flu and diarrhoea in daycare children. The research shows that the daily consumption of Danone Actimel is an effective and user-friendly way for all the family to help strengthen the natural defences. So why not start your child’s morning off with Danone Actimel, or pop one in the lunch box for later in the day.
There are lots of food choices available for lunch boxes, however it can be tough to keep it interesting for kids.  Try these tips
  • Variety – experiment with different types of bread, especially if your children begin to lose interest in sandwiches. Try seeded rolls, pitta bread, flat bread, bagels and wraps.  Buy in bulk when these foods are on offer and keep them in the freezer for lunchboxes and picnics!
  • Get fruity – choose fresh seasonal fruit.  Try making up fruit salads with a variety of different seasonal fruits – chop it and put it in a little lunchbox for your kids so they can eat it easily
  • Vegetables – try vegetable sticks like cucumber, carrots or celery with small containers of dips like hummus, low-fat cream cheese or salsa.  This creates a colourful, fun lunchbox for your child to enjoy.
  • Milk, yoghurt and yoghurt drinks – these can all help to contribute to your child’s calcium and vitamin D intakes and are perfect for snacks with lunch or after school.  The Actimel 0% fat range is also lower in sugar than the regular range, so perfect if you are worried about high sugar intakes.
  • Crackers about cheese! – mini cheeses and crackers are a fun way to include both carbohydrate and calcium-rich foods in the lunchbox
  • Vary the fillings – ideas for fillings include different types of cheese, tuna with sweetcorn, egg with spring onion, salmon with cucumber, or turkey with relish.  Dips like tzatziki and salsa make good spreads and are lower in fat than mayonnaise.
  • Waste not, want not – add chopped tomatoes, peppers and cucumber to leftover pasta and rice with a bit of low-fat dressing for an instant tasty salad
  • Sweet treats - mini muffins or oat-based cereal bars are good choices, but always in moderation.
  • Hydration - Water and milk are the best drinks for children. They can be frozen to help keep foods in the lunch box cool.  Make sure your child always has their own water bottle with them at school, when playing sports or when travelling.  Carrying water with them will constantly remind them of the importance of drinking plenty of water.
Practical Tips
  • Finally, a few tips to make preparing lunches a little bit easier
  • Invest in some good quality lunchboxes and small cooler bags.  Keep them all in the one place so you don’t waste time gathering them in the morning
  • Don’t forget to pack a spoon for yoghurt or fruit salads
  • For busy families, prepare lunchboxes and sandwiches the night before and keep them in the fridge overnight
  • Wash lunchboxes thoroughly after every use
  • During warmer weather, include a frozen bottle of water in the lunchbox.  It will still be cold by lunchtime and will keep the food cool too