Whether the kids are sitting in classrooms or virtual lessons this year, they still need a healthy balanced meal to keep them going. Here are a few low GI, low fat, energy-boosting lunchbox ideas that you can even prep ahead of time.
Important tip: With any of the meals below, include fruit, nuts and/or a low-fat yoghurt as a snack and as many crunchy green veggies as you like. Also, choose juice or water over sugary drinks for a healthier alternative.
- The ‘traditional’ lunchbox
We usually think of sandwiches when we think of lunchboxes, but it’s a good idea to think about what type of bread and fillings you’re easting to boost energy and maintain a healthy weight.
For a healthy sandwich, include:
- wholewheat over white bread for a low GI carb option that also provides roughage.
- low-fat spreads (no more than 1 teaspoon of an oil-based spread).
- lean meat, egg or a small portion of low-fat cheese as a protein option.
- as much tomato, lettuce, or gherkins as you like for vitamins, minerals and roughage.
- Bento box
Are the kids tired of sandwiches? Bento boxes are originally from Japan and contain single-portion meals that are divided into compartments and don’t need to be heated. We decided to get creative and include healthy finger food for a variety of nibbles at lunchtime.
For a healthy bento box, include:
- salmon, lettuce and cream cheese wholewheat wrap cut into mini pinwheels for omega 3 fatty acids (salmon), vitamin K for healthy bones (lettuce), and protein and calcium (cream cheese).
- carrot and/or celery sticks.
- slices of cucumber.
- cherry tomatoes.
- hummus and/or tzatziki for dipping veggies.
- Brunch box
Who says you can’t pack breakfast foods for lunch? Most kids eat their packed lunches around 10:00 anyway, so it is brunchtime!
For a healthy brunch box, include:
- low-fat yoghurt or a quarter cup (1/4) grated mozzarella as a protein option.
- a large low-GI muesli, blueberry, banana or carrot muffin as a carb option that’s packed with roughage.
- your choice of berries, nuts and/or seeds to mix into your yoghurt for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids, or sugar free jam / fruit preserves to spread on your muffin.
- Pasta treat
Many avoid carbohydrates, but carbs in moderation gives young bodies and minds essential fuel for learning.
For a healthy pasta treat, include:
- one cup of cooked pasta for a low GI carb option.
- cubes of cooked chicken breast (oven baked with olive oil), or mozzarella as a vegetarian protein option.
- as many cherry tomatoes as you like for a vitamins, antioxidants, potassium and folate.
- as much fresh baby spinach as you like for vitamins, magnesium and iron.
- a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for flavour and vitamin C.
- Satisfying stir fry
Gone are the days of bland boiled veggies. There may be no better way to enjoy a range of fresh veggies than in a tasty stir fry and why not pack it for lunch? Veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals, as well as roughage.
For a healthy stir fry, include:
- green beans (if the kids don’t like beans, add lean chicken as a protein option)
- julienne carrots
- fresh peppers (yellow, red and/or green), seeded and sliced
- baby sweet corn
- sliced mushrooms
- chopped cabbage
- fresh minced ginger
- broccoli florets
- chillies, seeded and chopped (optional, for a spicy power punch of vitamin C!)
Serving suggestion: Fry in olive oil, and season with low sodium soy sauce and honey, or fresh lime juice. Serve with a quarter (1/4) cup of cooked brown rice or one (1) cup of cooked rice noodles for a low GI carb option.
Another great tip:
If your kids are fussy eaters, it may be a good idea to supplement their diets with vitamins and minerals that you can buy over-the-counter (OTC). Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on what is best for your child, but remember that nothing beats fresh fruit and veg!