The kids are back to school after a long summer break. But with temperatures still soaring, something cool is what’s needed in their lunchbox. In many families, both parents work and due to a shortage of time in the morning, it becomes difficult to prepare an elaborate lunch for the children. Handing over canteen money, packing ready-to-eat meals, or at the most, making a jam-butter sandwich is very convenient and easy.
Unfortunately these options make the lunchbox load up with salt, fats and sugars, and the child misses out on fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods. It is not always time-consuming to make a nutritious lunch box. Just use your imagination and plan a little ahead.
Here are some tips for a healthy lunchbox:
- Even though there are bubblers in all schools, make sure your kids carry plenty of plain water instead of fruit juices and cordials. It is very important to drink lots of water to keep hydrated in the hot summer months. Replacement of fluid loss, especially during exercise sessions or running and playing, is important in summer, or else they might feel tired and lethargic.
- For recess, try and add fruit. Summer fruit like watermelon, rock melon, litchi, nectarines, plums, apricots, berries are all juicy and have a high water content. These fruits are good sources of folate, Vitamin A, and antioxidants. If including whole fruit, select the type that is a suitable size for a child to easily hold in their hand and eat, especially for younger children.
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- Add vegetable sticks such as cucumbers, celery, carrots, sliced avocado, and cherry tomatoes. The antioxidants and vitamins present in these vegetables help to build up the immune system and minimize skin damage in the summer months. While packed with healthful dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, fresh vegetables also are low in calories and have no added fats or sugars.
- Cool drinks such as nimbu pani, lassi – sweet or salty, and coconut water are excellent thirst quenchers. Adding mint and roasted ground cumin seeds to lassi makes it an irresistible drink. Nimbu pani is an excellent source of Vitamin C and a very good appetizer.
- Avoid fried food such as puris, samosas, pakoras, hot chips, hot dogs, burgers, and spring rolls as these involve a lot of cooking at high temperatures, utilising a lot of time in a hot kitchen that could also have a thermal effect of increasing the body temperature.
- For lunch, try preparing cold pasta salads with lots of your child’s favourite veggies, and maybe add a can of tuna or cottage cheese for protein. Use different coloured or shaped pasta to make lunch more fun.
- Tortilla wraps stuffed with leftover food such as cooked vegetables, roast chicken or meat also makes a nutritious lunch box. Add some crispy lettuce, avocadoes or tomatoes for variety and change in taste.
- Use whole wheat or multigrain bread for sandwiches, depending on your child’s preference. Use paneer, chicken, egg, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes or peas as stuffing instead of only jam or processed cheese, which are high in sugar or fat. If you’re adding tomato to sandwiches, place the tomato between fillings and not directly onto the bread. This prevents the bread becoming soggy. Make a sandwich more appealing by cutting it with a cookie cutter into different shapes like a star, circle or diamond.
- Use burritos or tortilla wraps with baked beans or egg and ham or chicken. Add some lettuce and thin cucumber slices to give that extra crunch.
- Crackers with cheese and tuna are also cool and crunchy in summer. Add a can of tuna or sliced chicken separately, to stop the crackers from getting soggy.
- Pack natural or fruit yoghurt, scones, muffins, or fruit bread instead of candies or cakes for kids with a sweet tooth. Yoghurt is excellent for summer. Purchase small tubs of fruit yoghurt or the smaller packs.
But no matter how healthy your child’s lunchbox may be, it won’t provide any nutritional value if it doesn’t get eaten! So make packed lunches as interesting and nutritious as possible. Encourage your child to be involved in filling their own lunchbox from a range of healthy options.