Parents are being encouraged to keep their children’s lunchboxes nutritious as schools prepare to return from holidays across the Central West.
Central West Hospital and Health Service Healthy Lifestyles Coordinator Lauren Walker says the Health of Queenslanders 2018 report released last year showed clearly that obesity was a major problem throughout the state.
“According to the report, around 29% of children in the Central West are now overweight or obese, slightly higher than the state average of 26%. although the causes of obesity are complex, poor nutrition can be a significant factor.”
Ms Walker says good nutrition could help children to build healthy bodies and minds.
‘‘A nutritious lunchbox helps children to stay alert in class, be energetic all day, maintain a healthy weight and fight infections. Children have periods of fast growth and are generally very active, which means that their nutritional needs are high. However, children don’t always know what food is best for them and need to be guided.”
‘‘I encourage parents and carers to be good role models for their children by keeping lunchboxes healthy. You should also involve the kids in choosing, purchasing and preparing the foods for their lunchbox.”
Healthy eating means choosing a wide variety of foods every day from the five food groups in the Australian Dietary Guidelines:
- Vegetables and legumes/beans
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain e.g. breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles
- Lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs and seeds and legumes/beans
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)
Ms Walker says including at least one item from each of the five food groups in children’s lunchboxes assisted with healthy growth and development.
“The key is to be as creative as possible in food combination to achieve an interesting presentation in the lunchbox.’’
Some good lunchbox and snack ideas that are nutritious, easy to prepare and convenient for a child to handle in school are:
Sandwiches and wraps: There are endless ways to create a sandwich or wrap to retain a child’s interest as a regular food. This can be done by varying the bread and the fillings.
Some interesting combinations are tuna, corn and sweet chilli sauce; roast vegetables, pesto and baby spinach; chicken, lettuce, grated carrot and mayonnaise; avocado, refried beans, reduced fat cheese and salsa; and baked beans and reduced fat cheese.
Quick homemade mini pizza: Spread tomato paste on half a bread roll, slice of bread, muffin or pita bread with tomato paste, ham, pineapple, capsicum and onion. Sprinkle with reduced fat cheese and grill until golden.
Rice, noodle or pasta salad: Add chicken or lean meat, carrot, celery, pineapple or other combinations to rice, noddle or even different shaped pasta.
Savoury or fruit muffins.
Crackers, pikelets or waffle: With a variety of spread such as vegemite, jam, reduced fat cheese.
Finger salad or vegetable stick: Combine a variety of cut up vegetables such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce with a selection of meat, reduced fat cheese and egg.
Fruit salad: With a mixture of drained tinned or fresh seasonal fruits cut up in different shapes with cookie cutters.
“You can also include a tub of yoghurt, custard, or a popper of milk – but choose reduced fat varieties,’’ Ms Walker said.
“A combination of these for breaks and lunch will provide a complete lunchbox for your child.”
“Also, be sure to keep dairy foods cool to avoid the Western Queensland heat and food- borne illnesses.”
“Simple ways to do this may include freezing your custard, yoghurt or popper or by adding a frozen water bottle or fruit, such as frozen grapes.”
“Some foods must be kept cold to keep them safe and also more appetising to eat.’’
“These are foods that are normally kept at a suitable temperature in the fridge at home and include meat, chicken, fish, ham and cold meats, egg, dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt, and custard), cooked rice, pasta and noodles.”
“Store these in the fridge until they are packed into the lunchbox and keep lunchbox foods cold with a frozen ice brick and insulated bag.”
“Frozen drinks in poppers can also be used inside the lunchbox to help keep the food cold and provide your child with a cold drink when it has melted at break or lunch time.”