A new year of school has officially kicked off for most children around Australia, and for parents this means the return of making school lunch boxes – a daily task which can become seemingly more challenging the more you try to ensure it’s a healthy one.
Fortunately, it’s actually really simple, easy and most importantly, realistic, to make some healthier swaps to your lunchbox repertoire - ones that can make a huge difference in safeguarding your child against the poor health associated with excessive sugar intake. Not only will your child embrace these choices (we’ve made sure they’re all deliciously kid-friendly!), it will also install in them some healthier habits around food that will set them up for a healthier life in the long-term.
Here’s our hacks:
Swap dried fruit for fresh fruit - Not all fruits are created equal! Dried fruit does contain some fibre, micronutrients and natural sugars, but it can also contain a high amount of added sugars. The process of drying fruit can also further concentrate the natural sugars, making it easier to over-consume. A tiny pack of raisins could be loading your child up on 3x the amount of sugar as a fresh apple. Fruit is always a good idea - but fresh fruit is a better choice.
Opt for homemade versions of their favourite treats - There’s no harm in adding some delicious treats into your child’s lunchboxes, but there is harm done if it’s a processed treat laden with added sugar and other ingredients you wouldn’t necessarily load them up on everyday. Home baking your own treats for your child’s lunchbox gives you much more control over the added sugar, and lets you reduce their sugar intake easily - without them even noticing! Here’s our top 3 three lunchbox friendly snacks made sugar free using our Lakanto sweetener:
Always include a vegetable or two - It’s not just about taking things out of your kids lunchbox that makes a difference - it’s about what you’re adding in and the benefits that come with it. A serve of veggies in a sandwich, a slice of sugar free banana bread made with grated zucchini throughout or a home baked carrot cake can all boost your child’s micronutrient intake and fill them up on fibre - keeping their blood sugar levels stable (so they’re less likely to crave sugary sweets) and encouraging them to embrace veggies from a young age. Even if you have to disguise a vegetable to get them eating it - at least it’s getting the job done!
Ditch the sugary drinks - It’s no secret that the majority of sugar hidden in children’s lunchboxes is not actually coming from their food - it’s hiding in their drinks. Sodas, juice pops and flavoured milk can contain up to an entire day’s worth of sugar! Try to get your child into the habit of drinking water between meals, and if you need to sweeten it up, consider infusing the water with some fresh berries, lemon or orange zest or make some homemade lemonade.
Prep ahead or utilise leftovers - For most of us, time is our biggest hurdle to healthy eating. The easiest way to avoid this is to plan ahead and be prepared. Prepping some big batch meals on a Sunday that you can refrigerate or freeze is a great way to get the hard work done before the week begins, or it could be as simple as making a bit extra at dinner each night to pack in your kids lunchbox the next day. A little bit of meal prep goes a long way - and will keep you from reaching for the ‘easy’ processed snacks when time isn’t on your side.
Get your kids involved - When it comes to preparing a healthy lunchbox that your kids will actually like (and eat!), make sure you involve them in the process. Ask them what they like, what they don’t like, and give them healthy options. Do some healthy baking with them so they can get excited about what they’re having as their treat in the week ahead, or let them pick their favourite piece of fruit to have.
Make it fun - Healthy eating doesn’t need to be boring or restrictive for your kids! Make it enjoyable and sustainable, and it’ll become an easier habit for them to take well into the future. We love using cookie cutters to cut up fruit or sandwiches - it takes minimal extra time and really helps your kids get excited and proud about their healthy lunchbox.