As Summer approaches and the weather warms up, it’s often more convenient to eat while you’re out and about, on playdates, at the park or on the beach.
Of course, this means it’s time to get those lunches packed and ready to go!
Our Chief Nutrition Officer Mandy Sacher is sharing exactly what your little ones’ lunch box should include and some helpful tips to make the packing process a breeze!
Mandy’s Number 1 Tip – Buy a Bento Style Lunch Box
During the early years, the food children consume impacts every aspect of their development, including their immune system, sleep, and temperament. That’s why offering a variety of nutrient-packed foods, like whole grains, protein, healthy fats, fruit, and veggies from a young age is so important.
Using a Bento Style Lunch Box, with different sections, means you’re able to easily create a balanced meal with a variety of nutrients, tastes, and flavours your little one will enjoy – helping to develop those positive and long-lasting healthy eating behaviours.
What to pack in your lunch box
Essential ingredients in a healthy lunchbox include:
- Iron-rich protein such as chicken, beef, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, pumpkin seeds, tahini and chickpeas
- Wholegrains (slow-release carbohydrates) such as sourdough bread, whole grain bread, seeded crackers, wholemeal flatbread, brown rice or wholemeal pasta
- Fresh seasonal fruit
- Fresh crunchy vegetables
What to include as the main meal
Variety is the spice of life – and lunch boxes as well! If your child only accepts sandwiches in their lunchbox, start slowly and offer a non-sandwich option 1-2 times per week and build up from there. If you are offering a sandwich, choose wholegrain bread and try to include a protein-rich filling such as roasted chicken, tuna, hummus, or peanut/ almond butter (if your school allows nuts). My favourite is this chicken and tomato sandwich.
If you’re looking to include a non-sandwich option, like we provide at all MindChamps Early Learning Centres, why not try a mini sweet potato pizza, veggie muffins or chicken and zucchini meatballs?
Remember to load their lunchbox with veggies – on their sandwich, in the base of the pizza and always on the side.
Smart snacking options
It’s no secret that kids love their snacks – adults too! But snacks often contribute most of the sugar, salt, and preservatives in a child’s diet (which is no surprise that they’re often preferred over main meals).
With a few minor tweaks, you can still offer your little one easy-to-prepare snacks – with a healthy twist. We recommend:
- Brown rice crackers
- Corn thins with avocado or hummus
- Cut-up veggies with dips
- Veggie fruit skewers
- Choc-coated trail mixes
- Cubes of cheese – you can even cut these into fun shapes
Here are my favourite go-to homemade lunchbox snacks that pack a serious nutritional punch.
Lunchbox food safety
Include a small ice pack in your lunch box to keep food cool, fresh and safe throughout those hot Summer days.
Frozen yoghurt is a fantastic ice pack alternative – by the time they want to eat it, it will be nice and slushy. Simply add natural yoghurt and your fruit of choice to a blender until smooth. Pop it into a sealed mini container and voilà, your very own (delicious) homemade ice block.
Stay hydrated with water
During those warmer months, it’s so important to keep your little ones hydrated with plenty of water. You can also offer fresh fruit and veggies such as watermelon and cucumber to up their water intake in a fun and tasty way.
Get them involved
If you want to encourage your little one to try new foods it’s important to get them involved in the planning, shopping, and packing process. Become a food explorer and have fun with food and meal creation. It’s also a great opportunity to remind children how their bodies need the right fuel, from the right foods, so they have all the energy they need to enjoy the long Summer days!
MindChamps Global Chief Nutrition Officer Mandy Sacher is Australia’s leading Paediatric Nutritionist, best-selling Author, child nutrition expert, blogger, and mother of two! She is also known for co-developing MEND (Mind Exercise Nutrition Do It!), the world’s largest and most researched childhood obesity prevention and treatment program based in the UK that was developed with over ten years of research.
Mandy and her Nutrition Team believe in the well-being of all our MindChamps children and that their nutritional needs should be fulfilled in our centres. Mandy’s philosophy is simple – teach children’s taste buds to enjoy nourishing, nutritionally beneficial foods as early as possible to ensure optimal development and establishment of lifelong healthy eating behaviours. Bridging the gaps in food and nutrition, this first-of-its-kind partnership is our commitment to creating and elevating a positive and lasting impact on childhood nutrition on a global level.