By Teri Lichtenstein

January 1, 2020

We are so grateful to accredited Practising Dietitian Teri Lichtenstein who specialises in the area of childhood nutrition. She has shared her ideas and proven strategies to help us all create the perfect magical lunch box. Here's what she has to say...

Ask any parent to describe the perfect school lunch box, and they will likely say it’s a lunch box that goes to school filled with healthy nutritious foods and comes home empty; with all the contents eaten by a hungry child eager to fill their belly and fire up their brain.

Unfortunately, too many parents believe this elusive type of lunch box is just a magical idea and doesn’t exist in real life, as too often the food comes home untouched. But what if this was achievable? Could there be a way to fill the lunch box with high quality healthy food that will satisfy your child’s taste buds, as well as meet their needs for healthy growth and development, and of course relieve parent lunchbox anxiety?

The magic lunch box does exist in real life. Just like all magic, it’s about knowing the tricks and tips to bring about a desired effect and make your audience (aka your child) go “Wow, that was amazingly delicious!”

1. Go, grow, glow!

Each lunch box should contain at least one “go” food for energy (e.g. whole grain carbohydrates such as bread, pasta or rice) and a “grow” food to help the body and brain develop (e.g. protein from meat, eggs, chicken, or vegan sources of protein such as legumes). Add in a few “glow” foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals to keep kids healthy (e.g. different coloured fruits and vegetables and snacks with seeds and dried fruit such as Kez’s Kitchen Gluten Free and Naked Cold Pressed Snack Bar).

This formula works well as it’s simple enough for kids to understand and by being involved they are more likely to eat the food that they have helped to choose. It's also quick and effective to ensure that the lunch box contains a wide variety of foods to help meet the nutritional needs of growing children.

2. Back away from bento boxes

Parents mistakenly believe that the more the lunch box creation looks like a beautiful Instagram image, the more likely it will be that their child will devour it. In reality, it’s the creations that take the longest to prepare that are often left untouched. Kids like familiarity and routine, so if your child loves a good old fashioned sandwich, don’t try offering fancy alternatives that look good on a screen, but which your child will give a thumbs down. The simple sanga can still be a nutritious choice by following these guidelines:

  • Wholemeal or wholegrain bread is preferable. If your child only eats white bread, choose a variety with added fibre for the many health benefits including good gut health. The fibre will also help to keep their tummy fuller for longer. Remember that a sandwich can be made from regular bread, bagels, wraps, pita or rolls, so try mixing it up.
  • Whilst some kids are averse to eating plain vegetables, the sandwich can be a great way to up the vege intake. Try including different coloured vegetables in textures that may be acceptable to your child, for example grated carrots or cucumber ribbons. Experiment with different vegetables at home so you get to know what your child likes and dislikes, and this will also increase their exposure to new vege varieties.
  • Nowadays there are so many delicious and nutritious sandwich fillings beyond the standard cheese slice. A legume spread such as hummus or white bean is a great option, as it’s vegan, allergy-friendly and a great source of protein, fibre and essential nutrients. You can experiment with blending in some vegetables. Try these simple recipes, which can easily be made in a blender at home:
  • Roasted carrots with cannellini beans, tahini and extra virgin olive oil
  • Beetroot and hummus
  • Broad bean and avocado
  • Roasted sweet potato with Greek yoghurt

3. Snack attack

Snacks are the magical fairy dust that brings the whole lunch box together. Kids have a number of recess breaks during the school day and may need extra snacks after school or on days where they have sport activities. Providing convenient and healthy snacks that will also meet your child’s appetite and taste preferences can easily be achieved with these strategies:

  • Look for healthier alternatives that will appeal to your child:
  • Popcorn instead of chips
  • Whole grain crackers instead of plain crackers
  • All-natural snack bars with fruit and seeds instead of highly processed muesli bars with added sugar
  • Fresh fruit and veges are nature’s ideal snack food and with the changing seasons, you can get your kids involved in picking their favourite seasonal choice. If your child won’t eat plan vegetable sticks, try including a dip as an accompaniment.
  • When making snacks at home, swap recipe ingredients for healthier options such as whole grain flour instead of white bleached flour, and add seeds and fruit to muffins instead of chocolate chips.
  • There are a number of convenient packaged snack options that are a nutritious, healthy and delicious choice, and will save you time in the kitchen. Kez’s range of snack foods include the Kez’s Kitchen Gluten Free and Naked Cold Pressed Snack Bar (made with real fruit and seeds and no added preservatives) and are the perfect lunch box snack size. Kez’s Kitchen Gluten Free Flourless Brownies are a snack that all kids and parents love, and are the perfect after-school snack to fill hungry tummies. They are made from all natural ingredients including dates, coconut, cocoa and nuts.

You certainly don’t need to have super powers to woo your child into eating the contents of their lunch box. With a few simple strategies, you can rest assured that the food will go from the lunch box into their tummies, which is the best kind of magic of all.