With the dizzying array of junk food and unhealthy lunchbox options out there, it’s easy to lose track of making a healthy
lunch for your child. Fahmida Jafri, Dietician and Department Head of Nutrition at Gulf Medical University shows us how
to create healthy school lunches your child will enjoy.
The Lunchbox Ideas
Below are some tips to inspire you to prepare a great lunch box for your child. “Each lunch can be prepared with foods from the five food groups, which ensures your child is receiving all the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong,” says Jafri. “Water should always be the preferred choice of beverage,” states Jafri. “Low-fat plain milk can be consumed daily in appropriate amounts, while flavored milk and juice should be restricted to once or twice a week.”
Mash an avocado, which is a healthy fat, with lemon juice, then spread on a whole wheat wrap, a grain, top this with crumbled cheese (dairy) or shredded grilled chicken (protein), chopped tomatoes, and thinly sliced Romaine lettuce
(vegetables.) Roll up and wrap in wax paper. Pack some fresh strawberries in a ziploc bag for fruit punch along with plain water.
Combine finely chopped hard-boiled eggs, which are protein, and pickles with mustard and mayonnaise (fats), then spread on a slice of multigrain bread (grains). Combine drained canned tuna, a healthy fat and a protein, finely chopped celery
and onion (vegetables), mayonnaise and lemon juice, then spread on another slice of bread. Sprinkle with torn basil leaves and assemble. Pack with frozen grapes (fruit).
Peanut Butter Yum
Spread peanut butter, a healthy fat and a protein, on a toasted wholewheat wrap (grain), then sprinkle this with raisins (fruit) and light cream cheese (dairy)and drizzle with honey. Place a whole banana (fruit) slice, scatter and roll. Pack along with cucumber slices (vegetables) cut into star or circle shapes.
Turkey and Veggie Pita
Spread some cream cheese, both a dairy and fat, inside a whole wheat pita (grain) then add roasted turkey slices (protein), baby spinach leaves and cucumber slices (vegetables.) Pack some orange slices for a delightful combination.
Stir Fry Delight
Sauté thinly sliced scallions, the whites only, in vegetable oil, then add frozen carrots, peas, corn (vegetables) and a splash of water and soy sauce. Cook until heated through, then stir in leftover brown rice (grain) and another splash of water and soy sauce until the rice is softened and heated through. Stir in thinly sliced scallions (green parts), toasted sesame seeds
(healthy fats/ proteins), and chopped peanuts (legumes/protein). Pack some low fat fruit yoghurt (fruit/ dairy) for the dessert treat.
Tips for Fussy Eaters
- Ensure everyone who feeds your child agrees on how to deal with your child’s requests and refusals.
- Everyone who helps your child at mealtimes needs to stick to the plan so it’s constantly reinforced.
- Stay calm when dealing with your child’s food fussiness. By remaining calm, you will help to diffuse the situation and your child will realize their behavior isn’t getting them any extra attention.
- Do not offer a replacement food if what you offer is rejected. Unless a child is unwell they will never voluntarily starve themselves.
- For school lunches, initially pack smaller portions of the food. Try to give emphasis on the presentation of the meal as well as the consistency. Too dry foods and fluid foods are disliked by some children.
- Try to interact with your child everyday – indirectly to focus on what food he/she prefers to have to become strong and grow big.
- Try to pack nutrient dense lunches, incorporating variety in a single item which looks easier for a fussy eater to binge on.
- Be good role models to your children in terms of food choices and meal pattern. Children learn more looking at their adults.
Healthy Snacks Checklist
- Peanut butter – On crackers or bread, choose all-natural peanut butter which provides plenty of protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. If peanut allergies are a problem, stock up on all-natural almond or cashew butter instead.
- Yogurt – There are plenty of choices for this calcium-rich food. For a real treat, add fresh or frozen fruit to make a kid-pleasing smoothie.
- Raisins – Toss them into a homemade trail mix or add to a pot of yogurt. Potassium-rich raisins are a treat even the pickiest eater will love.
- Trail mix – Make your own with oats, honey and nuts for a snack that’s packed with energyboosting nutrients and is easy to eat on the go.
- Fruit – Fruit is the ideal snack. Stick to seasonal fruit and for a fun change, try freezing grapes or sliced bananas for a cool treat.
- Popcorn – Make your own air-popped popcorn and add healthy Parmesan cheese or dried herbs.
- Cereal – Look for high fiber and low in sugar cereals that kids can add to fruit, yogurt or have with a low-fat carton of milk.
Dr. Fahmida Jafri
Dietician and Department Head of Nutrition
Gulf Medical University