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Healthy Lunch box Ideas for Children
To help maintain your child's concentration and energy levels throughout the school day it is important for them to have a healthy and nutritious lunch. Lunches based around processed and high sugar, low nutrient foods such as crisps, chocolate and refined carbohydrates such as white bread and cakes do not provide a range of vitamins, minerals and can lead to imbalances in blood sugar, problems with concentration and memory and hyperactivity.
A balanced lunch box should contain starchy foods, protein, dairy foods or alternatives in the case of allergies or veganism and fruits and vegetables. Vary the foods you include each day to provide a greater variety and this also allows your child to taste a wide range of different types of foods.
Sugar can be hard to avoid in foods as it is called by many names. These include sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, fruit syrup and molasses.Other sources of sugar are honey, lactose, corn syrup, molasses and High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Be careful of products labels as having 'no added sugar' as these often contain sweeteners such as acesulfame , aspartame and saccharin. These sugar substitutes are considered by many to be responsible for many health problems and some have been banned in countries around the world.
There is a wide range of bread products available now including bagels, rolls, tortillas, pittas and sliced breads. Choose wholegrain and wholemeal varieties where possible. Some brands now make breads that are a combination of wholemeal and white in one loaf or you could make a sandwich is with one slice white and one slice wholemeal. Experiment with different breads as well such as rye or oat and also flavoured breads such as cheese topped rolls or breads with herbs or olives and tomatoes added. Healthy crackers or rice cakes could also be used instead of bread.
Sandwich filling ideas
Sliced chicken or turkey
Oily fish such as tuna or sardines
Hard boiled eggs
Nut or seed butters
Ham and cheese
Ingredients can be combined to create a greater range of choice and flavours;
Cheese or sliced meat with salad
Cheese and tomato
Bacon, lettuce and tomato
Cheese and pickle
Tuna and sweetcorn
Egg and cress
Tuna or egg mayonnaise
Ideas for Serving Fruit and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables can served whole or cut into pieces. Apples and pears can also be cored to make them easier to eat. fruits can also be combined to create a colourful fruit salad or served on cocktail sticks (remove the sharp end with kitchen scissors or use bento picks) to create mini fruit kebabs.
A wide range of dried fruits are available to buy now including mango, pineapple, cranberries, blueberries and strawberries as well as raisins, sultanas and currents. Many shops sell mixed bags of fruit, sometimes with nuts and seeds included and also individual portions ready to use.
Tinned fruit can be used instead of or with fresh fruits.
Fruit can be served as a purée or in a smoothie.
Fruit pieces can be added to homemade jelly.
Sticks of vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, celery or peppers can be given on their own or with dips such as hummus, cheese and chive, soured cream or salsa.
Cooled fruit or herbal teas
Fresh fruit juiced diluted half and half with water
Fruit and vegetable smoothies
Apple and Mango
100g mango, frozen
1 apple, diced
1/2 banana, sliced
Add the mango with half of the milk to a blender. Blend well, then add apple, banana and the remaining milk.
Other Smoothie Ideas
8 strawberries, hulled
110ml (4 fl oz) skimmed milk
120g (4 oz) low-fat plain yoghurt
3 tablespoons demerara sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cubes ice, crushed
In a blender, combine strawberries, milk, yoghurt, sugar and vanilla. Add the ice. Blend until smooth and creamy. Pour into glasses and serve.
Mango and Banana
175ml cold milk
4 tablespoons vanilla yoghurt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g chopped fresh mango
3 ice cubes
Peel the skin off the mango and cut the flesh away from the stone. Chop the flesh roughly and place it in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth.
Pour in the yoghurt and milk, and continue to process until well mixed and frothy. Sweeten with honey.
Pour into 2 tall glasses and sprinkle the cardamom seeds over the top. Serve immediately.
Home made jellies can be made quite simply using fruit juices and gelatine. Making your own means you can chose whether or not to sweeten your jelly with sugar and also avoid sweeteners and other questionable additives while still allowing your children to eat this traditional childrens treat.
600ml/1 pint fruit juice
4 leaves gelatine
2-3 tbsp caster sugar can be added if you like or if you are using a more sour juice such as lemon
Small pieces of fresh or tinned fruit can be added to the jelly but are completely optional
1. Soak the gelatine leaves in a few tables spoons of juice.
2. Heat the rest of the juice in a pan until hot. Do not boil the juice.
3. Stir in the sugar, if using until it has dissolved.
4. Slowly add the juice containing the gelatine leaves and stir until dissolved.
5. Leave to cool a little and then pour into individual bowls.
6. Add fruit pieces if required and chill to set.
Other Food Ideas
There are many other healthy foods that can easily be included in childrens lunch boxes. For example:
Cold pasta or rice with vegetable or salad
Natural yoghurt with fruit purée or fruit pieces
Vegetable sticks with dips such as hummus
Bought fruit bars such as Naked bars
Hard boiled eggs
Sticks or cubes of cheese
Home made cakes (you can control the sugar content and avoid chemical additives. There are also many healthy cakes such as those containing vegetables such as carrots, beetroot and courgette and even black beans)
Home made pizzas
Home made breaded chicken or fish pieces
© 2012 Claire