A healthy lunchbox doesn’t have to be a masterpiece every day! But aim to choose a variety of foods; see Nutrition Australia for the latest version of the Healthy Eating Pyramid. Here are few simple, yet healthy, ideas:
- Different types of bread such as high fibre, flat bread, multigrain.
- A range of fillings, such as lean meats, eggs, cheese, tuna, salmon.
- Vegetables, such as celery, carrots, tomato, lettuce.
- Healthy spreads, such a vegemite, or cream cheese spreads.
- Healthy snacks, such as fruit, yoghurt, rice cakes, dried fruits, cheese sticks, or pikelets.
Sandwich filling ideas
Sandwiches are a lunchbox staple, yet sometimes knowing what to put in is a challenge. Here are a few simple, yet healthy sandwich fillings that even the fussiest of eaters will love:
- Cheese and grated carrot
- Cottage cheese and chives
- Chicken and mayo and chopped celery
- Cheese and chutney
- Avocado and tomato
- Chicken and pesto
- Tuna, mayo and cucumber
Food to avoid
As much as children might love the more unhealthy choices, a lunchbox is about nutrition and healthy energy for the day, so try to avoid food such as:
- Salty meats such as salami and pastrami
- Muesli bars
- Fruit roll ups
- Packaged and processed foods
- Sweet treats – these are kept for special occasions, such as birthdays
Keep it simple
Most children simply want to eat their lunch quickly so they can go and play, so keep the lunchbox simple and fun, and choose foods that are easy to pick up and eat. Cut sandwiches into quarters so they are easy to manage, make sure containers are easy to open and avoid unnecessary wrapping, choose small fruits – such as strawberries or blueberries – or cut up larger fruits.
Dealing with a fussy eater
Most children are fussy eaters at some point, so don’t be disheartened if it seems like a vegemite sandwich is all they will ever eat. A lot of the time, fussy eating isn’t about the taste of the food but more about a child wanting to assert their independence. And what they like one day might not be the same the next! Fussiness tends to dissipate as they get older, and eventually most fussy eaters grow up to enjoy a range of different foods. If you are struggling with a fussy eater, here are a few tips:
- If your child is old enough to help, have them help you make the lunchbox, giving them the opportunity to choose what goes in.
- If they won’t try new foods, still always put a range of different foods in their lunchbox. It will often take 10-15 times of seeing a new food before they will try it.
- Try different foods at dinnertime so they are being exposed to new shapes, smells and textures regularly.
- Try not to offer a child a fatty, sugary alternative, just so they eat ‘something’ as your child might then start to refuse healthier foods – they know there are tastier options!
- Try not to bribe them with treats ‘If you eat your carrot you can have ice-cream’, as they can become even more interested in treats.