Updated: Feb 3, 2020
Kids tired of boring sandwiches for lunch? Looking for some healthier options and quick easy inspiration when making a packed lunch? Would you like less packaged foods and sugar in your child's lunch box? Then the following A4 printable handout is just for you.
Actually it was designed to make things easier for my husband and I. But hopefully you will find it useful too.
Not just for kids, it can be used for adult packed lunches and snack ideas. Hopefully you can then ditch many of the packaged, often less nutritious foods.
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You will notice I recommend gluten free predominantly. Why? Because you are then more inclined to look for alternatives to sandwiches and breads, and possibly increase your vegetable intake. Also gut issues and gluten intolerance are at epidemic levels. For more information check out the movie "What's with wheat?" or see my post "Gluten - fad, friend or foe?"
Does this mean that packaged foods labelled gluten free are healthier? Certainly not. Many can be high in sugar and loaded with nasty ingredients. So I try to choose foods without numbers, without colourings, artificial flavourings and preservatives, and with as little sugar and ingredients as possible. Gluten free grains such as buckwheat and quinoa are great alternatives to wheat based products.
I also try to have a few homemade goodies in the freezer. Just throw in and they are defrosted by lunch. Foods such as bliss balls, super seed slice, egg muffins, gluten free banana blueberry loaf, choc chip pumpkin muffins, chocolate zucchini carrot muffins and smoothies frozen in squeezy pouches (like kai carriers) are easy choices. Even frozen corn and peas are great additions to the lunch box.
I believe real food is not preservative filled, but fresh and nutritious.
However if choosing packaged food, here are a few helpful tips:
1. Avoid numbers
2. Look for preservative free
3. Go full fat
4. Choose unsweetened (or at least refined sugar free & below 10g sugar per 100g)*
5. Try to avoid refined oils that are inflammatory to the body. Oils like canola, rapeseed, soybean and sunflower oil (sometimes the oil is just listed as vegetable oil - which is refined). (Note: This is very difficult to do if purchasing packaged products as these oils are lot cheaper than the unrefined options like olive oil).
6. Choose products with a short ingredient list
*Remember the World Health Organisation recommends no more that 3 teaspoons of added sugar per day for a child. Which is only 12 grams! 6 teaspoons (24g) is recommended for adult females and 9 teaspoons (36g) for adult males.
For a balance try to select foods from each group. Including a protein and a healthy fat.
Obviously it is better to choose vegetables over lots of high carbohydrate based foods as they ultimately turn to sugar. So if you miss the sweet treats out, that is ideal. However sometimes the sweet treat can be the protein too, such as with nut or seed butter bliss balls or seed slice. This is how I include protein in my sons lunch box as he is not a fan of cold meats or dairy (lactose intolerant).
The new Australian food pyramid is a huge step in the right direction with at least fruit and vegetables filling the base of the pyramid, over grains. But healthy fat needs to get less of a bad rap. In fact carbohydrate intake is most closely associated with cardiovascular disease. As a leading cardiologist and President of The World Heart Federation stated...
"Contrary to common belief the current recommendation to reduce saturated fat has no scientific basis."
For more info click here or see this Functional Medicine University article.
So good luck. Please know I don't always win. Food comes home uneaten. Also I do sometimes "cheat" and pop in store bought kumara chips, wholemeal garlic bread and roasted chick peas. If you are new to real food lunch boxes and think "there is no way my kids will eat that", then check out my other blog post here for a few tips and suggestions.