Providing growing children with a nutritious packed lunch can be a challenge. It is so easy to get into the habit of putting the same items in day after day and by doing this your child could be missing out on some key nutrients. If you are lacking inspiration and aren't really sure of the alternatives to the usual sandwich and packet of crisps then below are some of my quick and easy lunch item staples.
The key to providing a balanced and nutritious lunch is ensuring the following are included:
A complex wholegrain carbohydrate: For sustained energy throughout the day, as well as providing fibre to support their bowels.
A protein: For growth and development, and to help them feel fuller for longer.
A healthy fat: For brain health, skin health and to help them feel fuller for longer.
Vegetables and fruit: To support the immune system, provide fibre and give them vital vitamins and minerals.
Calcium: For bone health.
Drink: For improved concentration throughout the day.
Here are my top choices of quick and easy items to include in your children's packed lunch:
lean cold meats like roast chicken and turkey; fish: canned tuna, salmon and sardines, salmon fishcakes; bean dips such as hummus and white bean dip; falafels;
edamame beans; seeds and nuts (if allowed at school); eggs: hard boiled, frittata or egg muffins; natural sugar free yoghurt; cheese: cheddar, cottage cheese or parmesan slices.
Avocado, guacamole, nuts and seeds, oily fish, chia seeds, coconut, organic butter, olive oil as a salad dressing.
Raw vegetable sticks such as carrots, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, celery and broccoli florets (all great with bean dips); chopped cooked vegetables added to quinoa or brown rice to make a wholesome salad; peas, peppers and sweetcorn added to tuna; root vegetable crisps; olives; avocado; homemade vegetable muffins; chopped beetroot; mixed greens.
Natural sugar free yoghurt, cheese, sesame seed bar, pumpkin seeds, hummus, almonds (if allowed at school), homemade spinach muffin.
Water, coconut water, shop bought or homemade smoothies.
Try to avoid sugary and processed foods that are nutrient poor and cause havoc with your child's blood sugar balance, leading to poor concentration, energy dips and increased hunger.
If you include at least one item from each of the above categories you will be giving your child a lunch that is balanced, nutritious and filling. Try one new food each day - repetition is key to getting your child to eat a wider variety of foods.