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Brown bread, white bread, chicken
filling or cheese, according to
Fahmida Jafri, Department Head of
Nutrition at GMC Hospital in Ajman,
in fact, preparing a school lunch box
is like walking a tightrope. “Balancing
the nutritional needs of growing
children while offering foods they will
actually eat can be challenging for
even the most organized parents,”
she says and with your child
spending most of the day at school,
it is important that the bulk of food
included in your child’s lunch box
provides much needed nutrients,
vitamins and minerals for energy and
growth.
Brown bread, white bread, chicken filling
or cheese, according to Fahmida Jafri,
Department Head of Nutrition at GMC
Hospital in Ajman, in fact, preparing a
school lunch box is like walking a tightrope.
“Balancing the nutritional needs of growing
children while offering foods they will actually
eat can be challenging for even the most
organized parents,” she says and with your
child spending most of the day at school, it is
important that the bulk of food included in
your child’s lunch box provides much needed
nutrients, vitamins and minerals for energy
and growth.
Important Food Groups
Carbohydrates
The first thing that needs to be considered
when packing a lunch is a good source of
carbohydrate for energy, says Jafri. While
for most kids this will be a sandwich but
options can also include breads that can be
wrapped around a filling such as tortillas,
chapattis, or Lebanese bread. “It is known that
wholegrain varieties of breads and cereals
are digested more slowly than more
processed white varieties and are
likely to keep children fuller for
longer, so choose wholegrain
wherever possible,” she
says. To avoid high fat,
Jafri urges parents to look
at food labels to help you
choose the products that are
lowest in saturated fat, total
fat, sugar and salt. “Avoid high fat
spreads and try a little avocado, low
fat mayonnaise, mustard or ricotta cheese
instead,” she says.
Protein and Fibre
Lean proteins and fibre are also an important
element of growing children and in your
child’s sandwich, therefore try to include a
good source of lean protein such as 97 per
cent fat-free turkey, chicken or ham,
tinned tuna or salmon or low-fat
cheese. “The protein portion will
keep your child full, help to maintain
concentration levels through the
afternoon lessons and help prevent
the four o’clock rush to the fridge
when they get home,” she says. “Also
add some salad and vegetables to
the sandwich which add fibre and
bulk and also helps to keep him or
her full,” she explains, pointing out
that some options that will not make
sandwiches too soggy include lettuce,
grated carrot, celery or capsicum and
cucumber circles.
Fruits
Jafri urges parents to always add
one piece of fresh or dried fruit to
your child’s lunch box. “Children
will eat fruit if they are hungry and
there are no other more appealing ‘junk type’
options available,” she says and different fruit
options include small tins of fruit in natural
juice, small plastic containers of grapes or
strawberries, pieces of banana or melon,
mandarins or stone fruit or small packets
of raisins or dried apricots. Be sure also to
include a small healthy recess snack as Jafri
explains that otherwise you may run the risk
of your child swapping their fruit for more
appealing packaged options. “A more realistic
approach is to include one, small nutritious
snack,” she says however unfortunately, it
does seem that many parents are over filling
their children’s lunch boxes with snack foods
like flavoured milk, juices, chips and other
unhealthy foods.
Fluids
Water, reinforces Jafri, should be the drink of
choice. “Fruit juices, cordials, flavoured waters
and full strength soft drinks are very high in
sugar and should not be consumed on a daily
basis,” she says and adds that it is also a good
idea to freeze water bottles the night before for
hot summer days.
Food safety in Lunch boxes
It’s important to keep food in the lunch box
cold to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria,
reminds Jafri. “Pack the school lunch in an
insulated lunch box and include a small freezer
brick or freeze a bottle of water and pop it into
the lunchbox to keep food cool,” she says and
be sure to follow hygienic food preparation
methods. This is especially important when the
food will be stored in the lunch box for many
hours before eating. “Perishable foods such as
dairy products, eggs, sliced meats should be
kept cool and eaten within about four hours of
preparation,” she says and also remember not
to pack foods if just cooked. Instead first cool
them in the refrigerator overnight.
Oct/Nov 2013
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