Lunchbox ideas... plus a whole lot of other information about childhood nutrition!
School lunchboxes… it’s a never-ending job. Love it or loathe it, if you have a school aged child, there will be many more years of packing to come! I find that organisation is the key. If I have a stocked pantry and freezer, packing a lunchbox is cinch. If you have a child with a food allergy or intolerance, or just want to avoid the nasties, a little extra preparation time and intention is required to stay organised. If your kids are anything like mine, they are always hungry! But how do you feed them nourishing food that will fill them up as well as meet their needs? I will answer that question in a moment, but first, what are their daily nutritional needs? I am glad you have asked! To have a growing, thriving child, they need the following daily:
Why? Give energy, help build muscles and bones. Provide vitamins A, D and K, which are important for normal growth and hormone production.
Food sources: Eggs, avocado, nuts and seeds, full fat organic dairy (kefir, milk, yoghurt, cheese (not processed), organic butter), salmon, sardines, coconut products, organic meat, bone broth, flaxseeds, cod liver oil.
Why? Building blocks of life and are essential for normal growth. Animal products contain all of the 22 amino acids required by the body.
Food sources: Include foods such as: fish 2-3 times per week (salmon, tuna, sardines, perch), organic chicken and eggs, organic dairy, cheese (especially ricotta, fetta or cottage), lamb, beef, pork, veal (avoid processed meats such as deli meats and sausages, unless they are nitrate free and organic where possible), grains such as wheat (spelt or farro are best types), brown rice, millet, barley, rye, oats, buckwheat, seeds such as sunflower, flaxseed, pumpkin, quinoa, amaranth, chia, nuts and legumes.
Why? Provide vitamins E, B, essential minerals and the all-important fibre. Steer clear of refined carbs when possible, also called ‘empty calories’. When it comes to grains and legumes, they contain phytic acid, which can inhibit the absorption of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. To combat this, soaking or fermenting will make them more digestible. But how? Soak overnight in filtered water and an acid (lemon juice, 1 tbsp natural yoghurt, whey apple cider vinegar). In the morning, rinse and cook as usual.
Low-carb (load up with each meal): Asparagus, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, celery, zucchini, fennel, capsicum, silverbeet, bok choy, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, leek, garlic, radish, rocket, tomato, green beans, seaweed.
Starchy vegetables (limit to ½ cup per meal): Carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, beetroot, parsnip, peas and corn.
Low-fructose: Granny Smith apples, coconut, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, figs, lemons, oranges, papaya, kiwi fruit, passionfruit, nectarines, plums and peaches.
High-fructose: (eat on occasion): Dates, banana, mango, grapes, cherries, watermelon and lychees.
Dark leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, psyllium husks, beans.
Pure maple syrup, raw honey, rapadura, coconut sugar, stevia.
Spelt, oats, rye, kamut, teff, aramanth, brown rice, millet, wild rice.
Beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, peanuts and cashews.
Special mention to the following vitamins/minerals:
Why? Deficiency can cause learning disabilities, lethargy and mental retardation. Zinc is also super important for immunity and growth.
Food sources: red meat, seafood, pepitas, nuts, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and legumes.
Essential Fatty Acids
Why? For normal growth and behaviour and neurological development. Contain vitamin A and D, which are essential for bone growth and immune function.
Food sources: fish (especially mackeral, salmon, tuna and sardines.) Flaxseeds, spinach, chia seeds and walnuts.
Why? Energy production, prevent learning problems and increase susceptibility of infection.
Food sources: red meat, fish, poultry, chickpeas, citrus fruits, tomatoes, papaya, broccoli, pumpkin and cabbage.
Does that seem a little overwhelming? Let’s break it down now into what you could include in their lunchbox:
- Cut-up some cucumber sticks, or buy the mini cucumbers, carrot sticks, snow peas, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, green beans. Serve with hommus, pesto, guacamole, tomato salsa, or any other home-made dips. If buying from the store, SSS Foods Hommus brand is great, it has no preservatives and is made using olive oil.
- freshly chopped up or served whole. Try to stick to seasonal fruits as they are fresher and provide the vitamins and minerals needed for that season, eg: citrus fruit contains high levels of vitamin C and are heavily available during winter. For a bit of fun, there is a brand called Health Attack, which I have purchased from Woolworths, who make freeze-dried fruit. They only contain one ingredient: fruit. When buying dried fruit, opt for naturally dried and organic as they do not contain added sugar, oils or preservatives. Another note about dried fruit: eat in moderation. When you think about how many sultanas a packet contains, think about how many grapes you are actually eating! Grapes are high in fructose, so limit your intake.
- organic sourdough (spelt, rye etc), wraps, brown rice and quinoa cakes, spelt scones, banana bread made with spelt, kamut or buckwheat flours (or gluten free if needed), banana mini pancakes, rice paper rolls, brown rice sushi, gluten free pasta or pulse pasta mixed with pesto, popcorn (super easy to make your own with coconut oil and sea salt, otherwise, Coles brand uses coconut oil), roasted chickpeas, plain corn chips, homemade muffins or cakes (wholefood recipes, using good quality flours, fats and sweeteners).
- boiled egg, meatballs, nitrate-free ham, shredded chicken, leftover roast meat, tuna or salmon, organic sausages, organic natural yoghurt (naturally sweetened), rice paper rolls with a protein and salad, mini frittattas or zucchini slice made in a muffin tin, baked beans, hommus.
- guacamole, yoghurt, cheese (not processed), boiled egg, coconut flakes, coconut yoghurt. Bliss balls can be easily made and contain good fats such as coconut oil, coconut, flaxseeds, seeds and nuts (if allowed at the school).
Nitrate free ham and bacon: Don or D'orsogna, or sourced from local farmers markets.
Yoghurt: Jalna Biodynamic Organic, Five:am, Coyo.
Bread: La Tartine (Central Coast), Bills Organic
Wraps: BFree, Mountain Bread Spelt
Naturally dried fruit (sulphite free): Honest To Goodness
Organic Meat: Cleavers (great sausages and meatballs) or sourced through a local butcher or farmers market
Organic dairy: Ivyhome (Harris Farm), Paul's, Norco.
Hommus: SSS Foods
Freeze-dried fruit: Health Attack
Rice Crackers: Eat Rite
Popcorn: Coles brand
Rice cakes: Pure Harvest
Pulse pasta (made from legumes) and gluten free pasta: San Remo
- wash and chop up fruit and veggies at the start of the week and store in the fridge. Portion out yoghurt, make popcorn, boil eggs, make mini frittattas, make dips.
- Have a couple of hours set aside per month to bake items that can be stored in the freezer, such as: banana bread, bliss balls, zucchini slice, muffins/cakes (wholefood recipes), scones, pancakes, cooked meatballs and other meats.
Suggested websites with great recipe ideas:
Lunchbox examples: using the Seed and Sprout stainless steel bento stacker.
Top: apple, organic Jalna yoghurt with chia, flaxseeds, pepitas, sunflower seeds and coconut.
Middle: Spelt date scone, bliss ball, naturally dried sultanas, organic grapes and popcorn.
Bottom: Grass-fed meatballs, cucumber, carrot and cherry tomatoes.
Middle: organic medjool date, Health Attack freeze dried strawberries and mango, spelt banana bread, hommus, carrot and cucumber.
Bottom: La Tartine spelt sourdough with pesto, cherry tomatoes, capsicum and beans.
Top: organic Jalna yoghurt with chia, flaxseeds, pepitas, sunflower seeds and coconut, orange.
Middle: cucumber, bean, carrot, homemade baked beans, organic grapes, popcorn.
Bottom: Pure Harvest rice and quinoa cakes with avocado and grated carrot, Don nitrate free ham and mozarella.
Thank you for enduring through this incredibly long blog, I hope it was helpful! If you have any questions, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
~ Jo Kate