Top Tips for Children’s Lunches

There’s no doubt that parents are concerned about their children’s diets, but how do parents know if their children are getting enough of the daily vitamins and nutrients they need and where can parents find such information? As part of their Loveable Lunchboxes initiative, Nutritionist Resource surveyed 1,000 parents and found that 76% believe schools are not providing enough information on healthy eating. Parents indicated that one of the biggest challenges was packing lunches for fussy eaters. Continue reading for tips from nutritionists on portion sizes and food group types, as well as how to deal with fussy eaters.

What should be included?

Portion types and sizes

Children’s lunchboxes should include portions of fruit and vegetables, protein, dairy, carbohydrates, drinks and snacks. Note that portion sizes are an indication of how much energy the average child needs. Every child is different, therefore this information is a guide only and should not be considered individual advice. Have a look at this poster to see what a balanced lunchbox looks like.

Fruit and vegetables: salad pots, salad added to sandwiches, fruit pots or slices, portions of dried fruit.

Aim to provide children with at least two portions of fruit and three portions of different vegetables daily. Try to limit lunchboxes to one portion of fruit and one to two vegetables.

Protein: turkey, ham, chicken or sausage, fish, egg-based meals or beans and lentils.

A variety of these foods are needed two to three times a day and it is suggested to try to include oily fish (such as salmon and mackerel) at least twice a week.

Dairy: natural or Greek yoghurt, cubes of cheese, houmous and tzatziki.

Aim for three to four portions each day.

Carbohydrates: sandwiches made with whole grain bread, pitta or wraps, pasta salads, rice, quinoa or potatoes.

Carbohydrates should make up about one-third of your child’s meal.

Drinks: small carton of milk, water, 100% fruit juice, water with sugar-free fruit squash, homemade green smoothie.

Snacks: hard-boiled eggs, unsalted popcorn with cinnamon, savoury scone or muffins, homemade granola bars.

Note: Fats are an important part of a balanced diet. Try to include plenty of ‘good fats’ (unsaturated fats) in your child’s diet. These can be found in nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil.

Fussy eaters

Having the right information is always important; but what if your child is a fussy eater? Nutritionist Resource member, Natasha Alonzi suggests involving children in the choosing or making of food when assembling lunchboxes. Ask them to pick and weigh the apples at the supermarket, or encourage them to grow cress that can be put on egg sandwiches, they could even cut up carrots or spiralise, that’s always fun, obviously with supervision.”

Another tip from Natasha is to have children choose a colour of the day to eat for each day of the week. “For example, red foods on a Monday, so tomato and mozzarella sandwich for lunch with a red apple or strawberries. Green foods on a Tuesday, spiralled courgette in a pesto sauce, kiwi and green Matcha muffin, doesn’t have to stick to the one colour but it can be encouraging for children to be involved and eating a rainbow.”

Nutritionist Resource supports your wellness journey by connecting you with expert advice and qualified nutritionists in your area. Unlike other directories, members are encouraged to expand on their unique service, so you can make the right decision for you.