Cooking up new ideas for school lunches can be a challenge, but seasonal produce provides lots of variety for a healthy lunch, says charitable trust 5+ A Day.
Nutrients are vital in helping children concentrate in class and getting them through the school day. Lunchtime is when they refuel to boost energy levels, ready to take on the afternoon.
Filling lunch boxes with pre-packaged food that is often high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, can be the easy option. But picking fresh seasonal produce over ready-made means lunch can provide up to one-third of a child’s recommended daily intake of fresh fruit and vegetables.
To help maintain kids’ energy levels during the day, lunch should consist of a variety of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, lean proteins, good fats and calcium-rich foods.
Getting children involved by asking what they would like for lunch will help increase the likelihood of lunch boxes coming home empty.
Here’s five tips from 5+ A Day for a healthy lunch box.
Fresh seasonal fruit cut into bite-sized pieces and made into a fruit salad is the ideal lunchbox solution. Serve with a small tub of reduced fat yoghurt. For a savoury option, use baby carrots and cucumber sticks as dippers with a small container of hummus. Work with the seasons and provide seasonal produce for a change in flavour, colour and texture.
Wholemeal wraps or mini pita pockets with simple fillings add variety to lunches. Try avocado, grated carrot and marmite, cucumber, mint and low-fat cream cheese or lettuce and mashed hard-boiled egg. Roll up wraps and cut into pinwheel shapes or cut mini pita pockets in half.
Spread rice cakes with reduced fat cream cheese and top with a range of vegetables and fruit including carrot, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, summer berries, sprouts and capsicum.
Finger food is a favourite with kids and mini frittatas fit the bill perfectly. Sauté grated carrot and chopped onion. Add to grated courgette and mix through whisked eggs. Pour the mixture into muffin tins and sprinkle with a little grated cheese. Bake until golden, cool and pack.
Homemade mini pizzas are always a lunch box favourite and, with a little planning, you can make a batch to save time in the mornings. Lightly spread wholemeal pita pockets with tomato paste and top with sliced mushrooms, capsicum and halved cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little grated reduced fat Mozzarella cheese. Bake in a hot oven until golden. Let the pizzas cool, place in a container and store in the fridge until needed.
For more lunch box ideas, go to: www.5aday.co.nz
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