Why have healthy Packed lunches
According to a Food Standard’s Agency study, nine out of 10 packed lunches contain foods high in sugar, salt and saturates and fewer than half contain fruit.
Here’s how to pack a nutritious lunch for children
o Use wholegrain or wholemeal bread, rolls and pitta and try ciabatta, mini baguettes, bagels and raisin or sun dried tomato bread for variety
o Pack pasta or rice salads instead of sandwiches from time to time
o Cut fat by using less butter, spread or mayonnaise in sandwiches and choose low-fat fillings like lean ham, turkey, chicken, tuna in water, cottage cheese, Edam or banana
o Add two portions of fruit – don’t just stick to apples and pears, though. For variety, add grapes, fruit salad, a slice of melon, a small box of raisins or a can of fruit in juice
o Include cherry tomatoes, carrot and pepper sticks and add salad to sandwiches
o In the winter, fill a flask with vegetable, tomato or carrot soup – or even a casserole or a stew
o Replace cakes, biscuits and chocolate with scones, fruit bread or low-sugar cereal bars (check the labels)
o Swap fizzy drinks for water, unsweetened fruit juice, fruit smoothies, cartons
We should try to ensure that the packed lunches we make contain something from each of the following food groups:
• Starches/Carbohydrates: Bread, rice or pasta – this should form a large part of the lunch box. Wholemeal bread is better than white.
• Protein: Lean or medium-fat protein food, either as a sandwich filling or as part of a salad, e.g. ham, chicken, turkey, tuna or egg.
• Fruit and vegetables : have salad: Either as part of the sandwich or mixed with protein and starch into a salad, e.g. tuna pasta and tomato salad, or a small bag of cherry tomatoes or carrot and celery sticks.
• Fruit: 1 piece of fruit, or a mixed fruit salad, or a mini-bag of dried fruit.
• Dairy: Yoghurt, a milk drink, cheese or fromage frais - full of calcium.
• Cake: Yes, really! A small slice of home-made cake, like carrot cake, fruit cake or banana bread.
• Drink: Water or diluted fruit juices are best. Try to avoid fizzy and caffeinated drinks
Change4life and smallsteps4life are National campaigns about eating healthily and being more active.
other ideas on healthy packed lunches can be found on:
Keeping food safe
Remember that all the foods we keep in the fridge are the foods that can spoil between the time our children leave the house and the time they eat their packed lunches. Lunchboxes left in a warm place can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
To keep our children's lunch cool, we can buy mini ice packs or freezer gel packs. We can also freeze a carton or plastic bottle of juice overnight. The frozen drink will help keep food cool and will have defrosted by lunchtime.
How to get children involved
Why not try to get our children to make a list of ingredients or ideas of what they would like in their packed lunches?
Get them to read the labels at the supermarket or in our cupboards to show them what their favourite “junk foods” contain and then check the labels of the healthier alternatives. Let them look through recipe books for healthy sandwich fillings, buns, cakes and bars and different combinations of salads.
If they are involved in what goes into their packed lunches, they are more likely to eat them!
Read the labels
When choosing the contents of our children's packed lunches it is wise to check the labels on the packaging to make sure that we are giving them the healthiest options.
• Low Fat: This doesn't always mean low calorie or healthy as a lot of low fat, reduced fat or fat-free foods have extra sugar added to make them taste better. If it is low calorie as well, the chances are that it will contain artificial sweeteners, so that doesn't make a healthy choice, either.
• Sugar Free: This doesn't always mean there is no sugar, as it may contain natural sugars such as fruit or honey in it original ingredients. Artificial sweeteners can be added and sugar is not always called sugar – it can be fructose, glucose, maltose, dextrose and corn syrup.
• Light or lite: These products claim to have fewer calories or less fat than the standard versions of the same food. But this claim is not regulated and while a light/lite version of a dessert or a packet of crisps might have fewer calories, it could still contain high levels of fat or sugar.
• Free from preservatives: These may have extra salt added to increase their shelf life.
• Reduced salt/sodium: Again, this label is not regulated. It is the sodium in the salt that is bad for us, causing high blood pressure. Salt and sodium are hidden in so many foods, even sweet ones.
The following information from the Food Standards Agency provides you with some simple advice for understanding food labels:
Per 100g - a lot: a little:
Sugars 10g 2g
Fat 20g 3g
Saturated fat 5g 1g
Fibre 3g 0.5g
Salt 1.25g 0.25g
Sodium 0.5g 0.1g