What’s in your kid’s lunchbox? Now that it’s that time of year, when the schools go back, what they’re going to eat is one of the major things you need to think about.
Packing a good school lunchbox-or baggins, as we call it in Lancashire- means getting the balance right between healthy and tasty. And there’s the whole peer group thing to consider: munching on raw celery stick probably isn’t going to cut it with their mates in the playground.
We’ve talked about healthy food options before on this site, and the importance of healthier food and drinks for kids. Although they’re in the care of the school during the day, what they eat can very much be down to the choices their parents make.
We’re a specialist snacks and drinks supplier in Bury, with customers throughout Lancashire and the North West. We know the importance of choice when parents need to find the right balance for their children’s school lunchboxes.
Here are some tips and suggestions to make kids’ back to school lunchboxes something for them to really get stuck into.
Why Healthier Lunchboxes are Important
Because of growing evidence linking poor health in adults with poor diet or obesity in children, the government introduced the first statutory meal standard in 2006.
However, there is currently no law that says schools must enforce the same food standards for packed lunches.
That means parents will ultimately decide what goes into their kids’ packed lunches, and parents are often busy people with demanding kids, making it a challenge for them to get the balance right.
Researchers at the University of Leeds have marked some improvement in the quality of school lunchboxes in the past decade, with most packed lunches passing standards for protein content, and 75% meeting required vitamin C levels. However, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Retailers and wholesale food suppliers can do their bit, by offering healthier choices when it comes to snacks and drinks. More choice and better information made available to parents will be the key things to make healthier school lunchboxes the norm.
What should go in a balanced lunchbox?
As with food generally, a balanced diet is the ideal to aim for. It’s probably no use banning traditional snacks outright from lunchboxes – they’re popular for a reason, after all – but instead, aim for a better balance of foods.
The ideal mix should include: a starchy food, such as bread or pasta; protein, such as eggs, beans or fish; fruit and vegetables; dairy, such as milk or cheese; and a drink, preferably not sugary.
Already this can look daunting for a parent struggling to satisfy the twin needs of nutrition and their child’s tastes.
The answer is in being a bit inventive and putting together lunchboxes in such a way that the nutritional content is disguised, or absorbed, in tasty recipe combos and inventive substitutions for different food types.
Spread the Bread
Kids can be very picky about bread, as any parent trying to extol the virtues of wholemeal toast will know. Something starchy is essential for the lunchbox, so the trick is to vary the bread.
Clearly, stocking up on multiple variations of a perishable item seems wasteful, but you could always freeze your bread. That way it lasts a lot longer, and you can have a whole bread selection to choose from.
What sort of bread products are we talking about? How about bagels, pitta bread or wraps?
And if you want to sneak your wholemeal or brown bread in, try combining it with white bread, so one half of the sandwich is white, the other brown.
The art of compromise in putting together a lunchbox can help parents make great progress on the healthy eating front.
Cutting down the amount of butter, rather than cutting it out, can work to reduce the fat content, and do go easy on the mayonnaise.
A reminder: bread, pasta and starchy food keeps kids fuller for longer.
Do-it-yourself packed lunches
One way to get healthier food past the barrier of kids’ tastes is to make it more interesting. This involves a strong DIY element: let kids put their own lunches together from the ingredients supplied.
There’s something about little pots and containers of food that children find fascinating. So why not let them make their own wraps, or provide stuff to dip and snack on?
This also makes a change from sandwiches, lending some variety to the weekly cycle of packed lunches.
Similarly, making fruit and veg bite-size leaves it looking a lot cooler and more manageable. Carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, satsuma segments and banana chunks all count towards that all-important five-a-day.
Healthy sneaks and swaps for packed lunches
Some healthier snack options require a degree of stealth to get them into the lunchbox. Tinned fruit counts towards the five-a-day, so it might be an attractive alternative. The same goes for dried fruit such as raisins and
You can also use these instead of cakes and sweets, to an extent anyway. The same applies for things like fruit loaf and fruit bread.
There are healthy fruit bar options worth exploring too. One word of warning though: dried fruit can stick to teeth and contains a lot of sugar, so be careful not to include too much of it.
Not all kids like cheese, but for those that do, try substituting a stronger tasting cheese – mature cheddar, say – but including less of it. That way you cut down on the amount of fat in the lunchbox.
We’re not saying traditional snacks like crisps don’t have a place in the school lunchbox, but balance them with other, healthier options, and maybe don’t include them every day.
Also, instead of traditional sugary drinks, try exploring healthier options. Obviously, water and milk are ideal, but on their own they might be a hard sell for parents. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives, and while some will be sweet, they’ll also include plenty of vitamins and protein.
Finally, involve your child in making their own packed lunch. Letting them choose from a variety of healthy options means they are more likely to eat and enjoy it.
Get in Touch
The school lunchbox can be a challenge but the best way to meet it is with more choice, so that parents can put a bit of variety into what they want their kids to eat.
We’re specialists in choice, as wholesale suppliers of snacks and drinks serving Lancashire and the North West. We can help you to keep your customers, and their kids, happy. Discover how by picking up the phone and calling 0161 763 6020. Or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org