The creative lunchbox
Have you ever wondered why schoolchildren’s learning, concentration span and behaviour tends to deteriorate after lunch? The answer lies hidden in their lunchbox.
Parents want to make sure their children get a decent lunchtime meal at school but school meals aren’t always supplied and hassled mums and dads don’t always have time to make home-made sandwiches. Seeking a gap in this lucrative market (there are over 10 million school children in the UK) manufacturers have launched a succession of products that are high in saturated fat, salt and sugar and rely on artificial colourings and flavourings for their appeal to children. Top 10 Lunchbox Foods - (Children aged 8-16) 1. Crisps 2. Meat sandwich or roll 3. Chocolate 4. Cheese sandwich or roll 5. Apple 6. Drink in carton 7. Other sandwich or roll 8. Yoghurt 9. Biscuit 10. Other drink
A high fat, high salt, refined carbohydrate meal diminishes mental alertness, may lead to obesity and your child will probably end up tired towards the end of the day. Also a diet high in saturated fat and salt can lay the foundations for heart disease and high blood pressure later in life.
A healthy lunchbox should contain a variety of foods A source of protein for growth and to keep children alert Complex carbohydrates for slow-release energy Calcium for growth Fruit or vegetables for vitamins and minerals A little fat for staying power
A typical healthy lunchbox might include a wholemeal sandwich or pitta bread pocket with tuna, chicken, egg, cheese or peanut butter, a pot of yoghurt or yoghurt drink, a piece of fruit or some dried fruit and a treat like a small chocolate bar or crisps.
Protein Go for: lean meats such as turkey slices, chicken skewers, roast beef sandwiches; fish, such as tuna sandwiches, mini salmon fishcakes; and diary, such as boiled eggs and cheeses.
Carbohydrates Choose complex carbohydrates like wholemeal bread, pasta, potatoes, banana or rice. These release calories slowly and help to keep up energy levels and concentration. Refined carbohydrates only provide instant short-lived energy. You can avoid the routine of sandwiches by making little pots of pasta or rice salad or buying individual-sized ready-prepared pots. Image: chicken and pasta salad.
Milk And Dairy Products Children between the age of seven and twelve should be drinking 2/3 of a pint of milk a day. 1 pot of yoghurt and 1 oz hard cheese provide the same amount of calcium as 1/3 pint of milk. In a recent survey it was found that 25 per cent of young girls were eating too little calcium to build healthy bones. Young children don’t need a very low-fat diet so choose whole milk products like Greek yoghurt rather than low fat yoghurts.
Fruit And Vegetables Include a vitamin C-rich drink like orange or cranberry juice to help boost iron absorption. Choose unsweetened pure fruit juice avoiding the easy cons of vitamin enriched fruit drinks.
Always include some fresh fruit in your child’s lunchbox - dried fruit like dried apricots or raisins are good too. Raw vegetables with a dip tend to be popular or you can prepare salad kebabs with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, sweet pepper and cheese.