Friday, August 29, 2008

The importance of a healthy lunch

Ten best lunchbox tips
Here are ten tried and tested ways to make your child’s lunch healthier, more nutritious and more fun:

Make eating fruit fun. Most children will leave food that takes a lot of effort to eat, as they want a quick refuelling stop leaving maximum time for the playground. Peel clementines and cover with plastic wrap, cut kiwi fruit in half or make colourful skewers with bite sized-pieces of fruit.
Cut down on salt. Children tend to consume too much salt in their diet. Many manufactured foods made especially for lunchboxes, such as cheese strings, processed ham and cheese lunch packs and crisps, are very high in salt. Eating foods that contain potassium (such as bananas and dried apricots) helps balance the effect of salt in the body.
Ensure salads remain crisp. When making salads it's a good idea to keep the salad dressing separate and let your child pour it over the salad himself to prevent it from going soggy.
Build on your child's tastes. Communicate with your child and ask him what he enjoyed in his lunchbox. Look at what comes back untouched and ask (without being defensive) why it wasn't eaten. Ask if there are any foods that other children bring to school that he would like to try.
Save time. Lunches can be prepared the night before to save time in the morning. Prepare pasta salads, sandwich fillings, fruit compotes or include something from last night’s dinner, such as soup in a flask, chicken skewers or a Spanish omelette.
Keep food warm. It's a good idea to include something hot in a lunchbox, particularly when the weather is cold. A wide-mouthed mini-Thermos flask would be ideal for serving up a delicious cup of homemade or good-quality bought soup that's both warming and nutritious.
Keep food cool. If you want to keep the contents of your child's lunchbox cool, try freezing a carton or plastic bottle of juice overnight. The frozen drink will help keep food cool and will have defrosted by lunchtime. Choose pure fruit juice or fruit smoothies, not fruit juice 'drinks' which tend to be high in added sugar.
Freshen up. Cut-up vegetables sticks can dry out, so it’s a good idea to wrap them in some damp kitchen paper to retain moisture.
Cut down on junk. Avoid too many processed foods as they tend to contain few nutrients and too much salt, sugar, additives and saturated fat. If your child likes crisps but you don’t want him to fill up by eating a whole bag, put some in a small bag or wrap some crisps in foil.
Add a personal touch. Tuck a surprise like a note, stickers or joke in your child's lunchbox or hide a special treat at the bottom. Pack fun napkins, decorate lunch bags with stickers, draw a face on a banana with a marker pen or cut sandwiches into novelty shapes using cookie cutters. At the weekend it's a good idea to get your children involved in the kitchen making things like cookies and muffins which they can then take to school the following week.

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