Children spend a significant part of their day at school and consume a significant part of their food intake during the school day. Providing healthy and tasty lunches not only ensures your children have the energy to get through the school day, it helps them form good eating habits for the rest of their life.
A well balanced lunch box contains food from each of the four main food groups*:
- Fruit & Vegetables
- Milk & Milk Products
- Meat or Alternatives
- Breads & Cereals Products
Making sure the contents of their lunch box are interesting and varied increases the chances that your child will eat everything instead of sending it straight to the rubbish bin. Allowing them to decide what foods are included in their lunch by giving them a few options to choose from also helps increase the likelihood of them eating everything.
Lunches should be taken to school in a chilled lunch box or placed in a refrigerator at school if there is one available. In particular, dairy products or those foods containing meat or egg products such as sushi or sandwiches, need special care as they most at risk of developing high levels of bacteria which can cause foodborne illness.
Tip: Making fruit more manageable will increase the chance of it being eaten. Cut apples, pears or oranges and seal them in a small plastic bag, or include small pottles of diced fruit instead.
Tip: Investing in small re-useable containers will not only save you money by buying in bulk instead of individually packaged products, it will also save the amount of rubbish that ends up in the rubbish bins.
Water or milk are the best choices for your child to have everyday. It is a good idea to freeze a drink bottle of water the night before as this will help keep their lunch box cool during the day.
School Tuckshops & Canteens
It is OK to let your child buy their lunches from school canteens or tuckshops occasionally. Most canteens in New Zealand are making more of an effort to include more nutritious options however it is still a good idea to discuss with your child what types of foods they should look for. The principles for a healthy lunch box still apply to food purchased from a canteen. Small and occasional treats such as some of the products that are sold in canteens can be part of a balanced diet when consumed as a special treat.
*New Zealand Ministry of Health. Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Eating