By Daneila Victor & Carey Haupt registered Dietitians that work as part of Family Kitchen. They love to help families to improve their nutrition & health with personal consultations, group talks and cooking workshops. Dani is passionate about helping adolescents with diabetes and weight management while Carey loves to help mothers reach their breastfeeding goals.
It is not always easy making interesting lunch boxes. I am sure, like many parents, you often resort to the good old peanut butter brown bread sandwich with a fruit and yogurt. This is actually a really healthy option for them but it does become repetitive after a while.
Having a plan and a few options in the pantry does help to give them a bit more variety. At your weekly shop we suggest you look for food that fits into all the categories that need to be in a lunch box to make it interesting and healthy. These categories are: protein, carbohydrate, fat, vegetable and or fruit. Here are some examples:
peanut or nut butter packets
homemade banana bread cakes,
cheese (triangle or normal),
dried fruit (no added sugar),
mini cupcakes/muffin (treat) that can be frozen.
Coping with Allergies or Diabetes
There are however some children that have special dietary requirements such as an allergy or diabetes. It is important that children with allergies are not exposed to food that they react to. Ask at your school if there are any policies about allergies. At some schools, the children are not allowed to share their lunch to protect those with allergies. Some parents will ask the class not to bring peanut butter in their lunch box. This request should be taken seriously as a child with a peanut or nut allergy can have an anaphylactic attack from smelling the food. Peanut/nuts can easily be replaced with other proteins.
Diabetes- ideas for lunch box
For children that have diabetes there are some ideas to help you with their lunch boxes.
- Make sure that they get food from all categories as mentioned above
- It is important that the child eats at the same time each day
- Portion size is important – your child needs to know how many carbohydrates are in the lunch box so that they know how much insulin to give themselves
- Always use brown or whole wheat starches
- Add low carb or free foods to the lunch box in case your child gets hungry during the day and wants to snack on something e.g
– vegetable sticks (cucumber, carrots, celery),
– low carb high protein bars,
– homemade popcorn,
– nuts (not coated in sugar)
- Pack a water bottle that your child can refill with water throughout the day.
- If your child is playing sport during or after school it’s important to pack an extra sandwich to eat before as exercise can cause your child’s blood sugars to drop.
- It is very important that your child always carries extra sweets or fruit juice or both in his/her bag so that when their blood sugars drop they have something to correct their blood sugars
- Always remember it is important to make your child’s lunch box colourful and appetizing so they will want to eat what you have packed.
Every so often when that peanut butter sandwich is being made more often than not, I sit down and plan a few new ideas. See the pictures and ideas below for some examples of lunches our children have had.
Lunch Box examples
- Beef & mayo brown roll with sliced veggies, nectarine and dried mealies (diabetic friendly, just remember that dried mealies are a carbohydrate)
- Biltong, bran muffin, cheese, banana and energy bar (diabetic friendly, just remember some energy bars can be high in sugar so try to go for the high protein low carbohydrate bars)
- Whole wheat roll, baby tomatoes, small sausages and apricot roll (diabetic friendly, just add some cucumber or carrot sticks in case your child gets hungry later in the day)
- Duo Cheese brown bread sandwich, mixed dried fruit, cheese yoghurt and marshmallow(have a plain flavoured yoghurt, have raw fruit instead of dried fruit as it has a lot of sugar, no marshmallow, rather have a sugar free chocolate)
- Rye bread with biltong. Mixed nuts with dried fruit and energy bar (Diabetic friendly, as mentioned above have raw fruit and a high protein low energy bar)
- Homemade banana bread, apple, cheese and surprise chocolate (Diabetic friendly, sugar free chocolate)
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