Nutritious lunchbox ideas

Ensure nutrients and fun find their way into your child’s lunchbox with this simple equation.

by: Claudine Ryan | 10 Jan 2011

With the start of a new year and schools going back soon, one needs to think about making lunchboxes again. 

According to Claudine Ryan, registered dietician (SA) for Compass Group Southern Africa, “Keeping a lunchbox nutritious and exciting at the same time need not be tricky.” 

“Creative efforts with your child/children’s lunchbox/es will stimulate concentration, behaviour and energy levels during and after school hours,” says Ryan.  

If lunchboxes were am algebra equation, it should read like this:

Nutritious Lunchbox = ½(Fruit/Veg) + ¼ Low GI Starch + ¼ Protein

Equation explained: ½ lunchbox = Fruit + Vegetables   Use at least 2 different colours to ensure your child gets a variety of minerals and vitamins. You can include some:

  • Greens such as cucumber wedges, snap peas, green melon balls, green grapes or kiwi slices
  • Pinks, reds or purple such as cherry tomatoes, tomato wedges, strawberries, watermelon cubes, black grapes
  • Yellows or orange such as baby carrots, mini corn (mielies), naartjie segments, spanspek balls
  • Whites such as button mushrooms, apple wedges, peeled litchis or
  • Multi-colours such as coleslaw, mini vegetable skewers, fruit salad, fruit sticks.
¼ lunchbox (1 fistful) = low GI starch 
Include low GI whole wheat and seed breads, whole wheat pita breads, mini pita pizza slices, provita, rye vita, rye bread, low GI baked treats (such as muffins), cooked low GI pasta (whole wheat is better) , low GI rice (brown rice is better), barley, baby potatoes, low GI pancakes for savoury wraps and homemade mini low GI quiches.
¼ lunchbox = protein (size of your child’s palm) 
  • Healthy sources of fish such as tuna in water, fishcakes made with pilchards or sardines
  • Meat such as shaved cold meats, mini meatballs made with lean mince
  • Chicken such as grilled chicken strips, kebabs, shredded chicken as filling
  • Dairy such as low fat yoghurt, low fat flavoured milk, low fat cheeses
  • Boiled eggs or
  • Lean biltong can be included as a treat.
Additions to the lunchbox
Add only 1 serving of fat
Examples of healthier fats include:
  • 1 tablespoon of low oil mayonnaise/dressing
  • Mashed avocado or
  • Low fat cream cheese
Healthy drinks include:
  • Water
  • Diluted fruit juice (100 %)
  • Homemade iced tea
  • Flavoured low fat milk or
  • Hot chocolate with low fat milk in winter
Special treat
Children love special treats in their lunchboxes, which include:
  • Low GI home baked items like low GI chocolate muffins
  • Healthy snack bars
  • Fruit bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Home popped popcorn or
  • Oat biscuits

1.      It takes some planning

  • Stock up on healthy foods at home.
  • Plan ahead by drawing up a weekly lunch “menu” to avoid repetition of food items.

  2.      Make time

Prepare lunchboxes the night before if mornings are rushed to prevent you from taking the easy way out and including unhealthy snacks.
  3.      Be creative and focus on food appearance

  • Make sure the lunchbox packaging is big enough so that the food is not crammed in and squashed.
  • Use a variety of colourful foods to stimulate your child visually e.g. carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, colourful fruit sticks, vegetable kebabs etc.
  • Cut sandwiches into different shapes with a cookie cutter.
  • Use one slice of white bread and one slice of whole wheat bread to vary sandwiches and compromise taste.
  • Use tags or stickers to label food items with interesting names.
  • Kids love to dip so include healthy homemade dips such as hummus, mayonnaise mixed with plain yoghurt or low fat mayo.
For more information, please contact Claudine Ryan on 082 776 6437 or      

Read more on: healthy  |  back to school  |  lunchbox  |  nutrition

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