Children's Health

Connect Magazine || “Healthy Lunch Boxes”, March 2014 (Issue 111)

Hello and welcome to my first ever blog!  Its very exciting to be sharing information and inspiration with you. If you’re living in North Queensland, you have probably come across a wonderful local and independent magazine called “Connect Magazine”. I recently contributed article called “Healthy Lunch Boxes” (March 2014, Edition 111).  In case you missed it, I thought I’d share with you  here…

This article introduces a few basic ideas for replacing common lunchbox foods with more nutritious options. In April, I am offering a free talk called “Healthy Lunch Boxes” which will offer many more ideas on the topic. If you are in the Cairns area and know parents/caregivers who might be interested, it would be wonderful to have you along for the talk… Monday 28th April at the Marlin Coast Family Daycare Office in Smithfield @ 6.45pm.




Simple Ways to Create Healthier  Lunch Boxes

We all hope to feed our children food that nourishes them deeply.  But choosing good food for children’s lunch boxes each day can be a real challenge! Not only are we faced with the task of choosing foods that are healthy; we also need to find foods that our children will actually eat without our supervision. To make matter worse, there are often multiple lunch boxes being packed amid a flurry of morning activity, within a limited time frame!

Sadly, most of the foods that are marketed as “lunchbox foods” or “kid’s snacks” are highly processed and full of sugar and unhealthy fats. While this is a quick and easy way to fill a lunch box, these foods have very little nutritional value for children. It might seem like we are giving our kids a “treat” by including such foods, but often they mess with children’s energy levels, moods, behaviour and ability concentrate. When even a few of these colourful packages find their way into a lunchbox, it is usually the first thing (and often the only thing) that kids will choose to eat.

Creating healthier lunch boxes doesn’t need to cause a major upheaval. It can be achieved quite simply, by replacing “less-healthy” foods with “more-healthy” alternatives. In many cases this is a shift from processed foods to whole grains.  From pre-packaged to fresh. From white to brown.

Some basic changes include:

  • Choosing to buy rye/multigrain bread rather than white
  • Choosing wholegrain crackers rather than heavily processed white crackers. Look in the health food section at the supermarket; there are so many great options for crackers these days.
  • Instead of buying chips that are covered in flavours and colours, choose lightly salted chips. Again, there are many healthy chips in the health food section at the supermarket.
  • Try to replace flavoured yoghurts (which often contain lots of sugar and colours) with natural or honey-sweetened yoghurt. You might need to buy a big tub and put into little containers on the day (it doesn’t take long and it is more cost effective).
  • Use fresh fruits rather than tubs of fruit in syrup or processed fruit sticks.
  • Use real meat (dinner leftovers) rather than processed meats like ham, salami and those strange meat sticks!
  • The same goes for cheese; Use real cheese rather than cheesy dips and spreads.
  • Muesli bars are another product marketed as “healthy”, but often contain as much sugar as chocolate! You can replace these with tubs of mixed nuts or even wholegrain cereal. (Check out the “Delicious and Nutritious Muesli Bar Recipe” in April’s Edition of Connect Magazine).

Often it is just a matter of reading the labels and becoming more educated about what is actually hidden beneath the colourful packaging.  When we make educated food choices, we are not just choosing to nourish our children. We are also teaching them to not to be lured into the world of pretty packaging and other marketing ploys.

Easier said than done, you say? The ongoing “battle” to get kids to eat well can make you want to pull your hair out! This battle is usually laden with many accumulated emotions and complex behavioural patterns. With most fussy eaters it is predominantly a case of mind over matter. There is nothing actually wrong with food being offered, it is a battle of willpower; ‘Wants’ over ‘Needs”. A child may want sugary food, but we know that what they need in order to grow and thrive is good wholesome food.

As with any change, there is certainly going to be an adjustment period (for some more dramatic than others). Many kids these days are addicted to sugar from a very young age. As with any form of addiction, there is likely will be a withdrawal/weaning period. This can be a daunting undertaking, but the benefits are far-reaching. As caregivers we need to remember that we know better than our children when it comes to understanding what is healthy or harmful. Parents who have experienced weaning their children off breast-milk or bottles know that this process can only begin when the mother/caregiver is resolute and ready to hold her ground. It takes courage, consistency and commitment to the cause. If you don’t waiver, the weaning will often occur quicker than you had expected. Remember, this is an opportunity to make a shift that will benefit the child for many years to come, and indeed the whole family; Opening the doors to many delicious and nutritious food adventures; And to wellness on many levels.