Is healthy eating for your family one of your New Year’s resolutions but are you overwhelmed by the thought of another year of lunch boxes to pack?
The key to a making a lunch box healthy is easy… simply pack something from each of the five food groups, plus water, everyday:
- Breads & Cereals, preferably wholegrain : rich in carbohydrates, the body’s preferred source of energy – perfect for kids to play and learn all day. Good choices include pasta, rice, noodles, different breads and crispbreads.
- Vegetables & Salad: high in fibre and packed full of vital vitamins and minerals to boost health and help maintain a healthy weight. Easy options are cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks and corn cobs or add vegetables into snacks, sandwiches and meals. Try these Japanese Vegetable pancakes (link to video)
- Fruit: contains many vitamins, minerals and fibre, perfect for growing bodies. The options are endless, fresh, whole fruit, cut up fruit, dried or canned fruit can be packed.
- Meat & Alternatives: provide protein and nutrients essential for growth such as zinc and iron. Healthy choices include salmon or tuna, lean beef or lamb, skinless chicken or turkey, boiled egg, beans, lentils or hummus.
- Dairy: important for growing healthy bones and teeth. Try milk poppers, cheese or yoghurt tubs.
- Water: Keep kids hydrated: pack a water bottle daily and keep juice poppers out of the lunch box.
Our Healthy Lunch Box Website provides many more great lunch box foods from each of the five food groups. To inspire and assist you, there are examples of packed lunch boxes, snack ideas, sandwich alternatives, recipes, tips and easy healthy swaps for those common packaged lunch box items that are not the best for our kids.
Get kids involved in choosing lunch box items they will actually eat. They will enjoy using the interactive Healthy Lunch Box builder.
After going to the effort to pack a lunch box make sure it stays safe to eat. Storing ingredients at the right temperature is the best way to keep food fresh and appetising. Foods such as meat, fish, poultry and eggs; cooked pasta, noodles and rice; and dairy items need to be kept very cold.
- Use a cooler bag and ice brick or frozen water bottle to keep food cold in the lunch box.
- Freeze items such as sandwich bread, milk poppers, yoghurt tubs and home-made muffins. They will be thawed and ready to eat at lunch time and keep other lunch box items cold.
- Follow hygienic food preparation methods. This is especially important when food will be stored in the lunch box for several hours before eating.
- If preparing lunches the night before, store in the fridge or freezer.
- For food that has just been cooked, cool it in the fridge overnight before packing.
The Heathy Lunch Box website was created by Cancer Council NSW to save you time and money, and our clever tips for adding fruit and vegetables to your diet can set yourself and your family on a path of lifelong healthy eating, to reduce your cancer risk. Help us continue our work in cancer prevention – Donate now