As children return to school, here are some tips to ensure they enjoy some healthy food at lunchtime for the New Year.
Get your children involved in choosing what they include in their lunches – offer a choice between two healthy options, such as sliced bread or a bagel. You don’t need to offer a choice on all items on the lunch menu, just one or two.
Include a wide variety of food types — carbohydrates such as bread or pasta, protein foods such as meat, fish, eggs, or pulses, dairy foods – milk, cheese, or yoghurt — and plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Try to offer different foods every day. Children may want to stick with their favourites, but encouraging them to eat a variety of foods is important.
Cook extra meat, fish, or eggs in the evening and use these for lunch the next day. Food can be kept in the fridge for up to three days after it is cooked.
Vary the types of bread — eg, pitta, bagels, wholemeal rolls, wraps — and keep a stock in the freezer so you don’t run out.
Consider home-made soup. It is great for cold days, especially at weekends, while salads are light and refreshing for warmer weather.
Include a drink, as children need up to six cups of fluid daily. Milk and water are the best options.
Brightly coloured drinks bottles can make rehydrating more interesting.
Common parental concerns
• My child’s lunchbox comes home untouched: Talk to your child about why he/she didn't eat lunch. He/she may not like certain foods, or a friend might have provided something else. Getting him/her involved in making choices and preparing lunch can have a big impact on what he/she eats.
• I don’t have time in the morning to make a healthy lunch: Preepare lunch the night before and store it in a container in the fridge ready to go in the morning.
• My child doesn’t have enough time to eat all his lunch in school: The key here is preparation. Cut sandwiches into quarters. Provide bite sized snacks such as cherry tomatoes and grapes. Cut fruit and vegetables into small slices.
• There is no fridge at school to keep his lunch: Invest in an insulated lunch bag or box that can keep food cool. A small ice pack can also be used, or include a frozen bottle of water. Advise your child to keep his/her lunchbox away from radiators or direct sunlight.